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SSitlj Elegant |IIttstratioiTs. 










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There are more ways than one of studying natural his- 


There is Dr Dryasdust's way ; which consists of 


mere accuracy of definition and differentiation ; statistics 
as harsh and dry as the skins and bones in the museum 
where it is studied. There is the field-observer's way ; the 
careful and conscientious accumulation and record of facts 
bearing on the life-history of the creatures ; statistics as 
fresh and bright as the forest or meadow where they are 
gathered in the dewy morning. And there is the poet's 
way; who looks at nature through a glass peculiarly his 
own ; the SBsthetic aspect, which deals, not with statistics, 
but with the emotions of the human mind,— 

wonder, terror, revulsion, admiration, love, desire, and so 

■- r 

' ^ 


■which are 



the contempi 

of the creatures around him. 

In my many years' wanderings through the wide field 
of natural history, I have always felt towards it something 

k 1^ 


of a poet's heart, though destitute of a poet's genius. As 
Wordsworth so beautifully says, 

*' To me the meanest flower that blows can give 
Thoughts thatjio often lie too deep for tears." 



Now, this book is an attempt to present natural history 

J ■ 

in this aesthetic fashion. Not that I have presumed con- 
stantly to indicate — like the stage-directions in a play, or 
the "hear, hear!" in a speech — the actual emotion to be 

X I 


elicited ; this would have been obtrusive and impertinent ; 


but I have sought to paint a series of pictures, the reflec- 
tions of scenes and aspects in nature, which in my own 
mind awaken poetic interest, leaving them to do their 
proper work. 

If I may venture to point out one subject on which I 
have bestowed more than usual pains, and which I my- 
self regard with more than common interest, it is that of 
the last chapter in this volume. An amount of evidence 
is adduced for the existence of the sub-mvthic monster 
popularly known as " the sea-serpent," such as has never 
been brought together before, and such as ought almost 

■ * 

to set doubt at rest. But the cloudy uncertainty which 
has invested the very being of this creature ; its home on 
the lone ocean ; the fitful way in which it is seen and lost 
in its vast solitudes ; its dimensions, vaguely gigantic ; its 
dragon-like form ; and the possibility of its association 
with beings considered to be lost in an obsolete antiquity ; 


9 ■ 


all these are attributes which render it peculiarly precious 

to a romantic naturalist. I hope the statisticians will for- 
give me if they cannot see it with my spectacles. 

The Illustrations are drawn for the most part by Wolf, 


and engraved by Whyniper: they will speak for them- 




. ! 



. • ' i 

P. H 0. 




Torquay. 1860 


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Winter in the Polar Regions — Aurora — Snow-storui — Suow on 
Trees — Beauty of Snow-drifts — Silver-thaw — Opening of 
Spring — Butterflies — Beetles — Fishes — Bees — Flowers 
Spring in Canada — Leafing of Forest — Summer — A.utumn 
Autumnal Colours in American Forests — Indian Summer 
Autumn in the Alps — Morning in Newfoundland — Beaver- 
pond— Water-insects— Morning in Jamaica — A wakening Bi ids 

Daybreak in Venezuela — Sunrise in the Oural — Winter-Noon 
in England — Noon in a Brazilian Forest — Sunset in the Oural 

Sunset in the Altaian — Mothing in a Summer Evening in 
Kngland— Night on the Niesen — Night on the Jamaican Moun- 
tains — Night in Tropical Forests — Night-sounds in Jamaica 

in Brazil— ^on the Amazon — in Tobago — in Burmah — Beast- 
voices in Guiana — Night on the Amazon — Night in Central 
Africa — Night-lamps — English Glow-worms — in 
Canada — in Alabama — in Jamaica — Luminous Elater, . . 1 


Distribution of Animals and Plants — Harmony of a Natural his- 
tory Picture — Gazelle in Desert — Hyena in a ruined City 


Siberian Stag in Altaian Gorge — Lammergeyer in the Alatou 



Sperm-whales in Beagle Channel — Guanaco on the Andes 
Ilehideer on a Snow Fjeld — Burrell at the Source of the Ganges 

Elephant in South African Forest — Lions at an African Pool 
at Midnight — Butterflies in Brazilian Forest, . . . . 




Life at great Depths of Ocean — Life in Snow — Trees growing in 

Life in the Sandy Desert — Life in a Volcano — Life in 


Dast at Sea — Life in Brine — Life in boiling Springs — Blind 
Fauna of Caverns — Oceanic Bird Stations — Land Birds at Sea 
Insects at Sea — Insects at lofty Elevations — Flying-fish in Bed 
Shoal of Fish in a Parlour, . .- . . . . ^ Gi 


Coial Structures — Polypes — Lagoons — Beauty of Coral Island 
Rate of Increase — Proposed Employment of Coral-builders 
Diat(iW.acece — Immense Accumulations of Diatoms — Presence 
in Guano — Ocean Streaks — Food of Salpse — of Whales — Origin 

of Chalk-flints 

Vermilion Sea — Green Water 


planted by Finches— Destructive Insects — Locusts — Timber- 
beetles — White-ants — Forest Scavengers in Brazil — Zimb — 
Tsetse — Golubacser Fly — Musquito, . • • • . 




Whales — Elephants — in India — in Africa — Condor — Exaggerations 
of Travellers — Great Serpents — Ancient Celebrities — Daiiiell's 
Picture — Guiana Boa — Oriental Pythons — African Python 
Tabular Summary — Colossal Sea-weeds — Cane — Cacti — Echi- 
nocactus — Candelabra Cacti — Giant Cactus — Dragon-tree of 
Orotava — Banyan of India— Baobab of Senegal — Mexican Cy- 



press — Zamang del Guayre — Elm in Wales— Limes in Lithu- 
ania — Oak in France — Locust-trees in Brazil — Gum-trees in 
Australia — Mammoth-tree of California — A tall Family — Fell- 
fc^ ing the " Big Tree" — Speculation, 




Wonder at Minuteness — Complexity — Melicorta — Its Buililing 
Powers — Mental Facvilties — The Invisible World — Diatoms 
Their Form and Structure — Mode of Increase — Mode of Aggre- 
gation — Various Points of Interest — Life in a Drop of Water 
Infusoria — Stentor — Animalcule-tree — Floscularia — Roti- 
'^l" fera — Notommata — Salpina — Laying and Hatching of an Egg 

Sculptured Shells — Anurcea — Maximus in Minimis, . ,148 



Ohuck-wiirs Widow — ANight Scene — Heliconia — Singular Habit of 
a Butterfly — Swarming of Urania — A Jamaican Forest — Tree- 
. ferns •^- A Brazilian Forest — Glories of Tropical Scenery 


Strange Scene in a Churchyard — The Bird of Paradise at 
Home — Washington's Eagle — A Night with Fern-owls — The 
King^ of the Butterflies captured — First Sight of the Royal 
;.' Water-lily — Scene in the Life of Mungo Park — Scientific En- 
thusiasm — Humboldt's Experience, • • f . • 172 

H + 


■ 1 , —. t 

Strange Tameness of Animals — Vigilance and Jealousy — Caution 
and Confidence combined — Shyness and Coyness — Eagles 
Ducks — Stanzas to a Water-fowl — Ostrich — Rhea — Scottish 
Urus — European Bison — Mode in which it is hunted — Suspi- 

'■ "■_ - * — ^ * 

ciousness of MoDse — Reputed Power of remaining submerged 



Strange Story — Crusting— Moose-yard — Solitary Habits — 



Chamois — Difficulties of approaching it — The Geraz^ Fawn 
Rechise Life in a Forest-pool — Grebes in early Morning 
Snake-bird — Water- shrew — Its Playful Manners^ • 


- 1 , ■, 


r . ^ 


} . 

I - 

Capture of a Shark— Nautical Eagerness for the Sport — Hook and 

Harpoon — An expressive Countenance — Attendant 



Sharks at Night— Scene in the Pacific — Sperm-whales at 

^ < 

Night — Element of Unearthliness — Whetsaw — White Owl 
Bittern — Qua-bird — Prophetic Imagery of Desolation — Devil- 
bird — Eagle-owl — Guacharo — Rise of Water-fowl from River 

' r" V 

Assault of a Cuttle — Shriek of Jackal — American Howling 
Monkeys — Prairie Wolves — African Wild Dogs, 



- \ ' t - ' 

■ i ( I • ■ 



rj[an's Dominion over the Creatures — Sometimes contested— Bestial 
Conflicts — Wolf — A Mother's Sacrifice — Night-attack of- 
Wolves in Mongolia — Bears— Syrian Bear — ^Grizzly Bear— En- 
counter with one — Wild Beasts in Africa— Terrors of Ele- 
phant-hunting — ^Mr Oswell's Adventure — Horrible Death of 
Thackwray — Hottentot's Adventure with a Rhinoceros^ Simi-' 
lar Adventure of Mr Oswell— Thunberg's Encounter with a* ^ 
Cape Buffalo — Terrific Peril of Captain Methuen — Nearly fatal 


Combat with a Kangaroo — An old Carthaginian Voyage of^ 
Discovery — Wild Men — Identification of these with Apes 
The Gorilla— His Prowess — Comic. Scenes with the Elephant 

Tragic Encounters with Man — Perils of Whale-fishing— An; 
Involuntary Dive — Horrid Voracity of Sharks — The Crocodile 

Fatal Adventure with an Alligator — Potency of Poisonous- 
Serpents — Detail of Symptoms of Poisoning — Case of Mr 
Buckland — Death of Curling — Coolness of an Indian Officer 
Ugliness of Vipers — Shocking Adventure in Guiana-^ An other' 
in Venezuela — Fatal Encounter with Bees in India, :.'%>*■•; ^^ 2 (0 

• V • 


''' -it-' V XX Tjjj. UNKNOAVX. 



Charm of the Unknown — Expectation of an exploring Naturalist- 
His daily Experiences — Experience of Mr Bates — Aninaals in 
Brazil — A Natural-history Day on the Amazon — xVnticipations 

T ' , 

of Mr Wallace — The Far East— What may be expected in 
Zoology — In South America — A great Ape — In the Oriental 
Archipelago — In Papua — In China — In Japan — In the Farther 
Peninsula — In Madagascar — In Africa — Hope points to Central 
Africa — The Unicorn — Native Reports and Descriptions of it 

J *" 4 \ f J 

-Dr A. Smith's Opinion — Drawings by Savages — Our Iguor- 
ance of the Depth of Ocean — The Aquarium — Fancy Sketch by 

t r p T 

Schleiden — Clearness of Arctic Sead, • . . • • 271 

+ w 




Wonders of Foreign Parts — Scepticism — Moot Points in Zoology 
Necessity of Caution — Liability to Error— Question of the 

Existence of a "Sea-serpent" — Norwegian Testimony — New 
England Testimony — Mr Perkins's Report — Mr Ince's Nar- 
rative-^Captain M'Quhte's Report — Lieut. Drummond's — Ob- 
ject seen by Captain Beechey — Mr Stirling's Suggestion and 
Personal Testimony-^Suggestion of the Plestosaurus — Profes- 
sor Owen's Strictures and Opinion — Suggests a great Seal 
Captain M'Quhse's Reply— Mr Davidson's confirmatory Testi- 
mony—Animal seen from the Barham — Captain Herriman 
examines a supposed Sea-serpent — Finds it a Sea-weed — Cap- 
tain Harrington's Testimony — Captain Smith's Sea-weed Ex- 
perience- — More. Testimony from the Dcedalus — Examina- 
tion of the accumulated Evidence — Recapitulation — Dismis- 
sion of Sea-weed Hypothesis — Tests — Mammalia — Professor 
Owen's Hypothesis — Reasons against it— Vagueness of the 
Drawings — No Seal tenable — Cetacea — Fishes^Shark Hypo- 
thesis — Ribbon-Fishes — Eels — Reptiles — Small Sea-snakes 
Occurrence of a true Serpent in the Atlantic —Serpent Hypo- 







thesis rejected — Con.sideratioii of Enaliosaurian Hypothesis 
Resemblances — Difficulty of Mane — Objections examined 
Improbability of Perpetuation of the Form — Examples ad- 
duced — Evidence of present Enaliosauria — Absence of recent 
Remains — This Objection shewn to be gromidless — Examples 
of recent "Whales — The Whale of Havre — Sowerby's Diodon — 
lli'li-finned Cachalot — Rhinoceros Whale — Del plitnorhynchm 


of the Atlantic —Conchision, 

. 2P7 



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"^-^— MU^ii^' 

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I. THE GORILLA {Frontisplea) 








^ J 










. 200 




. 220 

«^ ■* 





. 250 

XII. THE SEA-SERPENT {on the Knalio<ianrkvi hijiot!«sls), 


■ ^ft'^ 

, 4 






*• To everything there is a season ; '' and, in its season, 
everything is comely. Winter is not without its charm, 
^ the charm of a grand and desolate majesty. The Arctic 
voyagers have seen King Winter on his throne, and a full 
royal despot he is. When the mercury is solid in the 
bulb, to look abroad on the boundless waste of snow, all 
silent and motionless, in the very midst of the six-months' 
night, must be something awful. And yet there is a glory 
and a beauty visible in perfection only then. There is 
the moon, of dazzling brightness, circling around the 


horizon ; there are ten thousand crystals of crisp and 
crackling snow reflecting her beams ; there are the stars 
flashing and sparkling with unwonted sharpness ; and 
there is the glorious aurora spanning the purple sky with 
its arch of coruscating beams, now advancing, now re- 
ceding, like angelic watchers engaged in mystic dance, 
now shooting forth spears and darts of white light with 
rustling whisper, and now unfurling a broad flag of crim- 



soned flame, that diffuses itself over the heavens, and is 
reflected from the unsullied snow beneath. These pheno- 
mena I have seen during many years' residence in the 
grim and ice-bound Newfoundland, and in still sterner 
Canada. There, too, I have often witnessed the 

4 • • • 

Kindred glooms. 

Congenial horrors !",.•• 

that tlie poet apostrophises, when 


The snows arise, and, foul and fierce. 

All winter drives along the darkened air. 


A snow-storm, when the air is filled with the thick flakes 
driven impetuously before a blinding gale, rapidly oblite- 
rating every landmark from the benighted and bewildered 
traveller's search on a wild mountain-side in Canada ; or 
on the banks of Newfoundland when a heavy sea is run- 
ning, and floes of ice, sharp as needles and hard as rocks, 
are floating all around — is something terrible to witness, 
and solemn to remember. 

Yet there are gentler features and more lovable attri- 
butes of winter, even in those regions where he reigns 
autocratically. The appearance of the forest, after a 
night's heavy snow in calm weather, is very beautiful. 
On the horizontal boughs of the spruces and hemlock- 
pines, it rests in heavy, fleecy masses, which take the 
form of hanging drapery, while the contrast between the 
brilliant whiteness of the clothinof and the blackness of 

the sombre foliage is fine and striking. Nor are the 
forms which the drifted snow assumes less attractive. 


Here, it lies in gentle undulations, swelling and sinking ; 
there, in little ripples, like tlie sand of a sea-beach ; here, 
it stands up like a perpendicular wall ; there, like a coni- 
cal hill •, here, it is a long, deep trench ; there, a flat, over- 
hanging table ; but one of the most charming of ito many- 
visaged appearances is that presented by a shed or out- 
house well hung with cobwebs. After a drift, the snow 
is seen, in greater or less masses, to have attached itself 
to the cobwebs, and hangs from the rafters and walls, and 
from corner to corner, in graceful drapery of the purest 


white, and of the most fantastic shapes. 

; The elegant arabesques that the frost forms on our 
window-panes, and the thin blades and serrated swords 
of Which hoar-frost is composed, are beautiful; and still 
ihpre exquisitely charming are the symmetrical six-rayed 
stars of falling snow, when caught on a dark surface. 
But I think nothing produced by the magic touch of 
winter can excel a phenomenon I have often seen in the 
woods of the transatlantic countries named above, where 
it is familiarly called silver-thaw. It is caused by rain 
descendinor when the stratum of air nearest the earth is 


below 32 deg., and consequently freezing the instant it 
touches any object; the ice accumulates with every drop of 
rain, until a transparent, glassy coating is formed. On the 
shrubs and trees, the effect is magical, and reminds one of 
fairy scenes described in oriental fables. Every little twig, 
every branch, every leaf, every blade of grass is enshrined 

in crystal; the whole forest is composed of sparkling, 

transparent glass, even to the minute leaves of the pines 



and firs. The sun shines out. What a glitter of light ! 

■- F 

How the beams, broken, as it were, into ten thousand 


fragments, spirkle and dance, as they are reflected froni 
the trees ! Yet it is as fragile as beautiful. A slight 
shock from a rude hand is sufficient to destroy it. The 
air is filled with a descending shower of the glittering 


fragments, and the spell is broken at once ; the crystal 


pageant has vanished, and nothing remains but a brown, 

leafless tree. 

But all this is the beauty of death ; and the naturalist, 
though he may, and does, admire its peculiar loveliness, 
yet longs for the opening of spring. To his impatience it 


has seemed as if it would never come ; but, at last, on 
some morning toward the ond of April, the sun rises 


without a cloud, the south-west wind blows softly, and he 


walks forth, " wrapt in Elysium." Life is now abroad : 


larks, by scores, are pouring forth sweet carols, as they 
hang and soar in the dazzling brightness of the sky; the 
blackbird is warbling, flute-like, in the coppice; swallows, 
newly come across the sea, are sweeping and twittering 
joyously; the little olive-clad warblers and white-throats 
are creeping about like mice among the twigs of the 


hedges ; and, ha ! — sweetest of all sounds of spring ! 

there are those two simple notes, that thrill through the 
very heart,- — the voice of the cuckoo ! 

Here, too, are the butterflies. The homely " whites " 
of the garden arc flitting about the cabbages, and the 



tawny "browns'' are dancing along the hedge-rows that 

' i * 

divide the meadows; the delicate "brimstone' comes 



bounding over tlie fence, and alights on a bed of prim- 
roses, itself scarcely distinguishable from one of tliem. 

— — w 

On tlie commons and open downs the lovely little "blues'' 

are frisking in animated play ; and here and there a still 
more minute " copper" — tiniest of the butterfly race 
rubs together its little wings, or spreads them to the sun, 
glowing with scarlet lustre like a coal of fire. 
-.The beetles are active, too, in their way. The tiger- 


beetle, with its sparkling green wing-cases, flies before our 
footsteps with watchful agility, and numerous atoms are 
circling round the blossoming elms, which, on catching 
one or two, we find to belong to the same class ; the dark- 

1 - '* 

blue Timarcha — the bloody-nose — is depositing its drop 
of clear red liquid on the blades of grass ; and if we look 
into the ponds, we see multitudes of little black, brown, 
and yellow forms come up to the surface, hang there for 
a moment, and then hurry down again into the depths. 
And then come up the newts from their castle in the mud, 
willing to see and to be seen ; for they have donned their 
vernal attire, and appear veritable holiday beaux, arrayed 
in the pomp of ruffled shirt and scarlet waistcoat. The 
frogs, moreover, are busy depositing their strings of bead- 

_ like spawn, and announcing the fact to the world in loud, 
if not cheerful strains. 

J ■ 4- 

The streams, freed from the turbidity of the winter 
rains, roll in transparent clearness, now gliding along 

■ q 

smooth and deep in their weedy course through " tV in- 



. dented meads," where the roach and the dace play in 

¥ + . 

sight, and the pike lies but half-hidden under the pro- 


jecting bank ; and now brawling and sparkling in frag- 
mentary crystal, over a rocky bed, where the trout dis- 
plays Lis speckled side as he leaps from pool to pool. 

The willows on the river margin are gay with their 
pendant catkins, to whose attractions hundreds of hum- 
ming bees resort, in preference to the lovely flowers which 
are already making the banks and slopes to smile. The 
homeliest of these, even the dandelions and daisies, the 
buttercups and celandines, are most welcome after the 
dreariness and death of winter. 

" Earth fills her lap with treasures of her own ; " and 
even " the meanest flower that blows " has, to the opened 
eye, a beauty that is like a halo of glory around it Yet 
there are some which, from the peculiarities of their form, 
colour, or habits, charm us more than others. The ger- 
mander speedwell, with its laughing blue eyes, spangling 
every hedge-bank — who can look upon it, and not love it ? 
Who can mark the wild hyacinths, growing in battalions 
of pale stalks, each crowned with its clusters of drooping 
bells ; and interspersed with the tall and luxuriant cow- 
slips, so like and yet so difl'erent, filling the air with their 
golden beauty and sugary fragrance, without rapture? 
Who can discover the perfumed violet amidst the rampant 
moss, or the lily of the valley beneath the rank herbage, 
without acknowledging how greatly both beauty and 
worth are enhanced by humility ? 

If in this favoured land we are conscious of emotions of 
peculiar delight, when we see the face of nature renewing 
its loveliness after winter, where yet the influence of the 

■ ■ '■» 





dreary season is never so absolute as quite to quencli the 
"activities of either vegetable or animal life, and where 


that face may be said to put on a somewhat gradual smile 
ere it breaks out into full joyous laughter — much more 

M I 

" impressive is the coming in of spring with all its charms 
in such' a country as Canada, where the transition is 


'■ abrupt, and a few days change the scene from a waste of 
-' show to universal warmth, verdure, and beauty. I have ob- 
•"' served, with admiration, how suddenly the brown poplar 

woods put on a flush of tender yellow-green from the 
'^' rapidly-opening leaves ; how quickly the maple trees are 
<'' covered with crimson blossoms ; how brilliant flowers are 
■■ fast springing up through the dead leaves in the forests ; 
• how gay butterflies and beetles are playing on every bank 
.where the snow lay a week before ; and how the bushes 
"are ringing with melody from hundreds of birds, which 

have been for months silent. The first song of spring 

'^ comes on the heart with peculiar power, after the mute 

.• desolation of winter, and more especially when, as in 

' the country I speak of, it suddenly bursts forth in a whole 

orchestra at once. The song-sparrow is the chief per- 

■ former in this early concert ; a very melodious little crea- 

"' ture, though of unpretending plumage. 

'■• ' Much of all this charm lies in the circumstantials, the 

^ associations, It may be that there is something in the 

psychical, perhaps even in the physical condition of the 


' observer, superinduced by the season itself, that makes 


r him in spring more open to pleasurable emotions from 
'- the sights and sounds of nature. But much depends on 


« ■ 

:* r 




association and contrast : novelty has inucli to do with 
it. Everything tells of happiness ; and we cannot help 
sympathising w^ith it. We contrast the ^coi] with the 
Odvaro^, and our minds revert to dOavaala. Here is, 


where before there^was not, at least for us ; and this is 


novelty. The hundreds of rich and fragrant violets that 
we find in April are not less rich in hue or less fragrant 
in odour than the first ; yet the first violet of spring had 
a charm that all these combined possess not. We can 
never hear the cuckoo's voice, we can never mark the 
swallow's flight, without pleasure ; but the first cuckoo, 
the first swallow, sent a thrill thi'ough our hearts which 
is not repeated. 

Akin to this is the rose-coloured atmosphere through 
which every thing in nature is seen by childhood and 
youth ; to w^hom the robin's breast appears of the bright- 
est scarlet, and the sloe and blackberry are delicious 
fruits. Love nature as we may, — and one who has ever 
wooed can never cease to love her, — we cannot help being 

* Darwin, writing of the Australian forest, observes : — " The leaves 
are not shed periodically : this character appears common to the entire 
southern hemisphere, namely. South America, Australia, and the Cape 
of Good Hope. The inhabitants of this hemisphere, and of the inter- 
tropical regions, thus lose perhaps one of the most glorious, though to 
our eyes common, spectacles in the world, — the first bursting into full 
foliage of the leafless tree. They may, however, say that we pay dearly 
for this by having the land covered with mere naked skeletons for so 
many months. This is too true ; but our senses acquire a keen relish 
for the exquisite green of the spring, which the eyes of those living 
within the tropics, sated during the long year with the gorgeous pro- 
ductions of those glowing climates, can never experience." — Nat. Voy., 
(ed. 1852,) p. 433. 



conscious, as " years bring the inevitable yoke/* of such 
a sadness as Wordsworth has described, in that Ode which 



-—rejecting, of course, as anything but a poetic dream, 
tlie theory on which he founds it — is one of the most 
nobly beautiful poems in our language : 



\-< * 


f ^ f 

^ * 1 

(.: \-^" '^. 

-t ^ i^' 



^ ; ^ 

■ V r 


. " There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream. 
The earth, and every common sight. 

To me did seem 
Appareird in celestial light. 
The glory and the freshness of a dream. 
It is not now as it hath been of yore ; 

Turn wheresoe'er I may, 
By night or day. 

The things which I have seen I now can see no mora 


" The rainbow comes and goeS; 

r f j[^ . ' And lovely is the rose ; 

» I 

«.t * 

The moon doth with delight 
Look round her when the heavens are bare; 

Waters on a starry night 
Are beautiful and fair ; 
The sunshine is a glorious birth ; 
But yet I know, where'er I go, 
That there hath pass'd away a glory from the earth.' 



The summer, with all its gorgeous opulence of life, 
possesses charms of its own ; nor is autumn destitute of an 
idiosyncrasy which takes strong hold of our sympathies. 
We cannot, indeed, divest ourselves of a certain feeling 

« - ■* 

- of sadness, because we know that the season is in the 
decrepitude of age, and is verging towards death. In 
spring, hope is prominent ; in autumn, regret : in spring 


we are anticipating life ; in autumn, death. 





Yet a forest country in autumn presents a glorioua 
spectacle, and nowhere more magnificent than in North 
America, where the decaying foliage of the hardwood 
forests puts on in October the most splendid colours. 


Every part of the woods is then glowing in an endless 


variety of shades ; brilliant crimson, purple, scarlet, lake, 
orange, yellow, brown, and green : if we look from some 
cliff or mountain-top over a breadth of forest, the rich 
hues are seen to spread as far as the eye can reach ; the 
shadows of the passing clouds, playing over the vast 
surface, now dimming the tints, now suffering them to 

flash out in the full light of the sun ; here and there a 
large group of sombre evergreens, — hemlock or spruce, 

giving the shadows of the picture, and acting as a foil 

to the brightness ; — the whole forest seems to have be- 
come a gigantic parterre of the richest flowers * 


Ere, in the northern gale, 

The summer tresses of the trees are gone. 
The woods of autumn, all around our vale, 

Have put their glory on. 


The mountains that infold. 

In their wide sweep, the colour 'd landscape round, 
Seem groups of giant kings, in purple and gold, 

That guard th' enchanted ground." — Brtant 

* In examining the details of this mass of glowing colour, I have 
found that by far the greatest proportion is produced by the sugar- 
maple, and other species of the same genus. The leaves of these display 
all shades of red, from deepest crimson to bright orange ; which gene- 
raUy occurring in large masses, not in individual detached leaves, pre- 
vents anything tawdry or little in the effect ; on the contrary, when 
the full beams of the sun shine on them, the warm and glowing colours 





It is observable that after all this short-lived splendour 


6as passed away, and the trees have become leafless, in 
Canada and the Northern States, there always occur a 

days of most lovely and balmy Aveather, which is 
called the Indian summer. It is characterised by a 

.peculiar haziness in the atmosphere, like a light smoke, 
'by a brilliant sun, only slightly dimmed by this haze, and 
by a general absence of wind. It follows a short season 
of wintry weather, so as to be isolated in its character. 

^One circumstance I have remarked with interest, — the 
resuscitation of insect life in abundance. Beautiful but- 

*terflie.3 swarm around the leafless trees ; and moths in 


multitudes flit among the weeds and bushes, while mi- 
nuter forms hop merrily about the heaps of decaying 
leaves at the edges of the woods. It is a charming 
relaxation of the icy chains of winter. 

possess a great deal of grandeur. The poplar leaves often assume a 


crimson hue ; the elm, a bright and golden yellow ; birch and beech, a 
pale, sober, yellow-ochre; ash and basswood, different shades of brown; 
the tamarack, a buff-yellow. The beech, the ash, and the tamarack do 
not, in general, bear much part in this glittering pageant; the ash is 


mostly leafless at the time, and the glory has passed away before the 
other two have scarcely begun to fade. Indeed, the glossy green of 
the beech is perhaps more effective than if it partook of the general 
change; and even the gloomy blackness of the resinous trees, by 
relieving and throwing forward the gayer tints, is not without effect. 
This beauty is not shewn to equal advantage every year : in some 
seasons the trees fade with very little splendour, the colours all par- 
taking more or less of dusky, sordid brown; early frosts seem to be 
unfavourable for its development : and even at its best it is a melan- 
choly glory, a precursor of approaching dissolution, something like the 
ribbons and garlands with which the ancient pagan priests were accus- 
tomed to adorn the animals they destined for sacrifice. 


Latrobe has depicted the aspect of the same season 
in the Alps, which may be compared with the Ameri- 
can : 

" On my arrival [at Neufchatel at the beginning of 
November], the vintage was over, and the vineyards, 
lately the scene of so much life and gaiety, now lay brown 
and unsightly upon the flanks of the mountain and bor- 
der of the lake. The forest trees in the neighbourhood 
of the town, and the brushwood on the wide and steep 
acclivity of the Chaumont, were still decked in that splen- 
did but transient livery which one frosty night's keen 
and motionless breath, or a few hours' tempest, must 
strew on the earth. 

" There is something strangely moving in the few last 
short and tranquil days of autumn, as they often inter- 
vene between a period of tempestuous weather and the 
commencement of the frosts. The face of nature is still 
sanny, and bright and beautiful ; the forest still yields its 
shade, and the sun glistens warm and clear upon the 
flower and stained leaf. 

" Then there is the gorgeous autumnal sunset closing 
the short day ; and in this land of the lake and mountain 
it is indeed a scene of enchantment. There is the rich 


tincre of the broad red sun stealing^ over and blendirm- the 

_ * 

thousand hues of the hill and forest, and the flood of 
glory upon the sky above and lake beneath, while the 
snows of the Alps are glowing like molten ore. I see it 
still, and it warms my heart's blood. 

" A few more days, and then rises the blast, howling 




tliroiigli the pine forest and over the mountain-side, shak- 
ing from the tree its fair foliage, roughening the surface 
of the lake, and drawing over the sky a curtain of thick 
vapours that narrows the horizon by day, and shuts out 
the stars by night/' * 

The different divisions of the day — early morning, noon, 
evening, night — have each their peculiar phase of nature. 



each admirable. An early riser, I have always been in 
the habit of enjoying, with keen relish, the opening of 
day and the awakening of life. In my young days of 
natural history, when pursuing with much ardour an 
acquaintance with the insects of Newfoundland, I used 
frequently, in June and July, to rise at daybreak, and 
seek a wild but lovely spot a mile or two from the town. 
It was a small tarn or lake among the hills, known as 
tittle Beaver Pond. Here I would arrive before the 
^winds were up, for it is at that season generally calm 
till after sunrise. The scene, with all its quiet beauty, 
rises up to my memory now. There is the black, calm, 
glassy pond sleeping below me, reflecting from its un- 


""ruffled surface every tree and bush of the dark towering 
■hills above, as in a perfect mirror. Stretching away to 
•the east are seen other ponds, embosomed in the frowning 
mountains, connected with this one and with each other 
■in that chain-fashion which is so characteristic of New- 
foundland ; while, further on in the same direction, be- 


'tween two 

conical peaks 

perceived reposing 

^ + 


1; . 


der the mantle of the lono; dark clouds of mornin;*;. 

Alpenstock, p. 162* 

i - 


There is little wood, except of the pine and fir tribe, 
sombre and still ; a few birches grow on the hill-sides, 
and a wild cherry or two ; but willows hang over the water, 
and many shrubs combine to constitute a tangled thicket 
redolent with perfume. Towards the margin of the lake, 
the ground is covered with spongy swamp-moss, and several 

species of ledum and halmia, with the fragrant gale, give 

out aromatic odours. The low, unvarying, and somewhat 
mournful bleat of the snipes on the opposite hill, and the 
short, impatient flapping of wings as one occasionally flies 
across the water, seem rather to increase than to dimi- 
nish the general tone of repose, which is aided, too, by 
yonder bittern that stands in the dark shadow of an over- 
hanging bush as motionless as if he were carved in stone, 

reflected perfectly in the shallow water in which he is 


But presently the spell is broken ; the almost oppres- 
sive silence and stillness are interrupted ; the eastern 
clouds have been waxing more and more ruddy, and the 
sky has been bathed in golden light ever becoming more 
lustrous. Now the sea reflects in dazzling splendour the 
risen sun ; nature awakes ; lines of ruffling ripple run 
across the lake from the airs which are be^innincr to 
breathe down the glen ; the solemn stillness which weighed 
upon the woods is dissipated ; the lowing of cattle comes 
faintly from the distant settlements; crows fly cawing 
overhead ; and scores of tiny throats combine, each in its 
measure, to make a sweet harmony, each warbling its 
song of unconscious praise to its beneficent Creator. 



Then with what delight would I haste to the lake-side, 
where the margin was friiio;ed with a broad belt of the 


o O 

/ ■ 

r _ 

^ i 


yellow water-lily, whose oval leaves floating on the sur- 
face almost concealed the water, while here and there the 
golden globe itself protruded. Having pulled out my 
insect-net from a rocky crevice in which I was accustomed 
to hide it, I would then stretch myself on the mossy bank 


and peer in between the lily leaves, under whose shadow 
I could with ease discover the busy inhabitants of the 
pool, and watch their various movements in the crystal- 
line water. 

_X The merry little boatflies are frisking about, backs 
downwards, using their oar-like hind feet as paddles ; the 
triple- tailed larvae of dayflies creep in and out of holes in 
the bank, the finny appendages at their sides maintaining 
a constant waving motion ; now and then a little water- 
beetle peeps out cautiously from the cresses, and scuttles 
across to a neighbouring weed ; the unwieldy caddis- 
worms are lazily dragging about their curiously-built 
houses over the sogged leaves at the bottom, watching 
for some unlucky gnat-grub to swim within reach of theii 
jaws ; but, lo ! one of them has just fallen a victim to the 
formidable calliper-compasses wherewith that beetle-larva 


seizes his prey, and is yielding his own life-blood to the 
ferocious slayer. There, too, is the awkward sprawling 
spider-like grub of the dragonfly ; he crawls to and fro 
on the mud, now and then shooting along by means of 
his curious valvular pump ; he approaches an unsuspect- 
ing blood-worm, and, — oh I I remember to this day the 




enthusiasm with which I saw him suddenly throw out 
from his face that extraordinary mask that Kirby has so 
graphically described, and, seizing the worm with the 
serrated folding-doors, close the whole apparatus up again 
in a moment. I could not stand that: in goes the net ; the 
clearness is destroyed ; the vermin fly hither and thither ; 
and our sprawling ill-favoured gentleman is dragged to 


daylight, and clapped into the pocket-phial, to be fattened 
at home, and reared " for the benefit of science." 

Since then I have wooed fair nature in many lands, 
and have always found a peculiar charm in the early 

morning. When dwelling in the gorgeous and simny 

Jamaica, it was delightful to rise long before day and ride 
up to a lonely mountain gorge overhung by the solemn 
tropical forest, and there, amidst the dewy ferns arching 
their feathery fronds by thousands from every rock and 
fallen tree, and beneath the splendid wild-pines and orchids 
that droop from every fork, await the first activity of some 
crepuscular bird or insect. There was a i^articular species 
of butterfly, remarkable for the extraordinary gem-like 
splendour of its decoration, and peculiarly interesting to the 
philosophic naturalist as being a connecting link between 
the true butterflies and the moths. This lovely creature, I 
discovered, was in the habit of appearing just as the sun 
broke from the sea, and congregating by scores around 
the summit of one tall forest-tree then in blossom, filling 


the air with their lustrous and sparkling beauty, at a height 
most tantalising for the collector, and after playing in giddy 
flight for about an hour, retiring as suddenly as they came. 


In tliese excursions I was interested in markinir the 
successive awakening of the early birds. Passing through 
the wooded pastures and guinea-grass fields of the upland' 
slopes, while the stars were twinkling overhead, while as 
yet no indication of day appeared over the dark moun- 


tain-peak, no ruddy tinge streamed along the east ; while 
Veniis was blazing like a lamp, and shedding as much 


light as a young moon, as she climbed up the clear, dark 
heaven among her fellow-stars ; — the nightjars were un- 
usually vociferous, uttering their singular note, "witta- 
wittawit," with pertinacious iteration, as they careered in 

numbers, flying low, as their voices clearly indi- 
cated, yet utterly indistinguishable to the sight from the 

4 s 

darkness of the sky across which they flitted in their 
triangular traverses. Presently the flat- bill uttered his 
plaintive wail, occasionally relieved by a note somewhat 
less mournful. When the advancing light began to break 


# _ 

over the black and frowning peaks, and Venus waned, 
the peadove from the neighbouring woods commenced 
her^fivefold coo, hollow and moaning. Then the petchary, 
from the top of a tall cocoa-palm, cackled his three or 
four rapid notes, " OP, PP, P, Q ; " and from a distant 
wooded hill, as yet shrouded in darkness, proceeded the 
rich, mellow, but broken song of the hopping-dick-thrush, 
closely resembling that of our own blackbird. Now the 
whole east was ruddy, and the rugged points and trees 
on the summit of the mountain-ridge, interrupting the 
flood of crimson light, produced the singularly beautiful 
phenomenon of a series of rose-coloured beams, diverging 



from the eastern quarter, and spreading, like an expanded 
fan, across tlie whole arch of heaven, each ray dilating as 
it advanced. The harsh screams of the cliickins;-hen 
came up from a gloomy gorge, and from the summit of 
the mountain were faintly heard the lengthened flute-like 
notes, in measured cadence, of the solitaire. Then mock- 
ing-birds all around broke into song, pouring forth their 


rich gushes and powerful bursts of melody, with a pro- 
fusion that filled the ear, and overpowered all the other 
varied voices, which were by this time too numerous to 
be separately distinguished, but which all heljjed to swell 
the morning concert of woodland music. 

A traveller in the n:iountain-rei>;ions of Venezuela has 
described in the following words his own experience of a 
similar scene : — 

" That morning's moonlight ride along the summits of 
the Sierra of Las Cocuyzas, was certainly one of the most 
enjoyable I ever remember. It was almost like magic, 
when, as the sun began to approach the horizon, the per- 
fect stillness of the forests beneath was gradually broken 
by the occasional note of some early riser of the winged 
tribe, till, at length, as the day itself began to break, the 


whole forest seemed to be suddenly warmed into life, send- 
ing forth choir after choir of gorgeous-plumaged songsters, 


each after his own manner to swell the chorus of greeting 
(a discordant one, I fear it must be owned) to the glorious 
sun ; and when, as the increasing light enabled you to 
see down into the misty valleys beneath, there were dis- 



played to our enchanted gaze zones of fertility, embracing 
almost every species of tree and flower that flourishes 
between the Tierra Caliente and the regions of perpetual 
snow. It certainly was a view of almost unequalled 
magnificence. Kiding amongst apple and peach-trees that 
mift'ht have belonged to an English orchard, and on 

whose branches we almost expected to see the blackbird 
and the chaffinch ; while a few hundred yards below, 
parrots and macaws, monkeys and mocking-birds, were 
sporting among the palms and tree-ferns, and, in flights 
of two or three hundred yards, chasing each other from 
the climate of the torrid to that of the temperate zone, 
was not the least striking part of the scene." * 

I cannot avoid quoting from Mr Atkinson a picture of 
day-break, as seen across the plains of Siberia from one 
of the peaks of the Oural ; though its details scarcely 

J .£ 

bring it within the limits of natural history proper : 

" Day was rapidly dawning over these boundless 
forests of Siberia. Long lines of pale yellow clouds 

r ' > ' ' 

extended over the horizon ; these became more luminous 
every few minutes, until at length they were like waves 
"golden light rolling and breaking on some celestial 

1 :. i 

shore. I roused up my fellow-traveller that he might 
partake with me in my admiration of the scene, and a 
most splendid one it was. The sun was rising behind 
some 'very distant hills, and tipping all the mountain- 
tops with his glorious rays : even the dark pines assumed 

• SnlYiMina Eamhlcs in North and South America, p. 395. 


a golden hue. We sat silently watching the beautifully 
changing scene for an hour, until hill and valley were 
lighted up/' * 

Cowper has selected "The Winter Walk at Noon'' for 
one of the books of his charming " Task ; '* and as nihil 

quod tetigit non ornavit^ so he has sketched a beautiful 
picture ; 

** Upon the southern side of the slant hills, 
And where the woods fence off the northern blast, 
The season smiles, resigning all its rage, 
And has the warmth of May. The vault is blue, 
Without a cloud, and white without a speck 
The dazzling splendour of the scene below. 

No noise is here, or none that hinders thought. 
The redbreast warbles still, but is content 
With slender notes, and more than half suppress'd : 
Pleased with his solitude, and flitting light 
From spray to spray, where'er he rests he shakes 
From many a twig the pendant drops of ice. 
That tinkle in the wither d leaves below/' 

But how different from such a scene is a tropical noon 
a noon in Guiana^ or Brazil, for example I There, too, 
an almost death-like quietude reigns, but it is a quietude 
induced by the furnace-like heat of the vertical sun, 
whose rays pour down with a direct fierceness, from 
which there is no shadow except actually beneath some 
thick tree, such as the mango, whose dense and dark 
foliage affords an absolutely impenetrable umbrella in the 
brightest glare. Such, too, is the smooth-barked manga- 
beira, a tree of vast bulk, with a wide-spreading head of 


* Atkinson's Sihena, p. 59. 






foliaGfe. beneath which, when the sun strikes merei 


lessly on every other spot, all is coolness and repose. 
The birds are all silent, sitting with panting beaks in the 
thickest foliage ; no tramp or voice of beast is heard, for 
these are sleeping in their coverts. Ever and anon the 
I seed-capsule of some forest-tree bursts with a report like 
that of a musket, and the scattered seeds are heard patter- 


ing among the leaves, and then all relapses into silence 

Great butterflies, with wings of 




almost too dazzling to look upon, flap lazily athwart the 

Little bright- 

olade, or 'alio'ht on the glorious flowers. 

eyed lizards, clad in panoply that glitters in the snn, 

creep about the parasites of the great trees, or rustle the 

t herbage, and start at the sounds themselves have made. 

_ T- 

Hark ! There is the toll of a distant bell. Two or three 
minutes pass, — another toll ! a like interval, then another 
toll ! Surely it is the passing bell of some convent, 
announcing the departure of a soul. No such thing ; it 
. is the note of a bird. It is the campanero or bell-bird of 


the Amazon, a gentle little creature, much like a snow- 
, white pigeon, with a sort of soft fleshy horn on its fore- 


head, three inches high. This appendage is black. 



clothed with a few scattered white feathers, and being 
hollow and communicating with the palate, it can be 
inflated at will. The solemn clear bell-note, uttered at 
regular intervals by the bird, is believed to be connected 
with this structure. Be this as it may, the silvery sound, 
heard only in the depth of the forest, and scarcely ever 
except at midday, when other voices are mute, falls upon 


p , 


the ear of the traveller with a thrilling and romantic 
effect. The jealously recluse habits of the bird have 
thrown an air of mystery over its economy, which 
heightens the interest with which it is invested. 

Before I speak of night, the most romantic of all sea- 
sons to the naturalist, I must quote two descriptions of 
sunset in regions rarely visited by English travellers. The 
first scene was witnessed from that rui^foed mountain-chain 
which divides two quarters of the globe. We have just 
looked at the rising sun from the same peaks, gazing 
across the plains of Asia : we are now called to look 
over Europe. 

" I now turned towards the west, and walked to a high 
crag overlooking the valley ; here I seated myself to 
watch the great and fiery orb descend below the horizon ; 
and a glorious sight it was 1 Pavda, with its snowy cap, 
was lighted up, and sparkled like a ruby ; the other 
mountains were tinged with red, while in the deep 
valleys all was gloom and mist. Eor a few minutes the 
whole atmosphere appeared filled with powdered carmine, 
giving a deep crimson tint to everything around. So 
splendid was this effect, and so firm a hold had it taken 
of my imagination, that I became insensible to the hun- 
dreds of mosquitoes that were feasting on my blood. 
Excepting their painfully disagreeable hum, no sound, 
not even the chirping of a bird, was to be heard : it was 


truly solitude. 

" Soon after the sun went down, a white vaijour began 

to rise in the valleys to a considerable height, giving to 


the scene an appearance of innumeraLle lakes studded 


with islands, as all the mountain-tops looked dark and 


black. 'I was so riveted to the spot by the scene before 


me, that I remained watching the changes until nearly 

J* ^ 


4 K 


eleven o'clock, when that peculiar twilight seen in these 


* regions stole gently over mountain and forest. The effect 
I cannot well describe — ^it appeared to partake largely of 

* the spiritual." * 
The other sketch is by the same accomplished traveller, 

drawn in a mountain region still more majestically grand 
•than the Oural, — the great Altaian chain of Central 


-.' " In the afternoon I rode to the westward ten or 
' twelve versts, which afforded me a fine view of the 
-beautiful scenery on and beyond the Bouchtaima river. 

The effect of this scene was magnificent ; as the sun was 

'sinking immediately behind one of the high conical 
mountains, I beheld the great fiery orb descend nearly 
over the centre of this mighty cone, presenting a singular 
appearance. Presently its long deep shadow crept over 
the lower hills, and soon extended far into the plain, till 
at length the place on which I stood received its cold 
gray tone. The mountains to the right and left were 
still shining in his golden light ; the snowy peaks of the 
Oholsoum appearing like frosted silver cut out against 
the clear blue sky. Gradually the shades of evening 
crept up the mountain-sides ; one bright spot after 
another vanished, until at length all was in shadowy gray, 


* Atkinson's Siberia, p 57« 






^ -^ 


except the snowy peaks. As the sun sank lower, a pale 
rose tint spread over their snowy mantles, deepening to a 
lio;ht crimson, and then a darker tone when the hio-hest 
shone out, as sparkling as a ruby ; and at last, for only a 
few minutes, it appeared like a crimson star/' * 

We come back from scenes so gorgeous, to quiet, homely 
England. How pleasant to the schoolboy, just infected 
with the entomolooical mania, is an eveninoj hour in June 

^ ^ r 

devoted to " mothino- ! " An hour before sunset he had 
been seen mysteriously to leave home, carrying a cup 
filled with a mixture of beer and treacle. With this he 
had bent his steps to the edge of a wood, and with a 
painter's brush had bedaubed the trunks of several large 
trees, much to the bewilderment of the woodman and his 
dog. Now the sun is going down like a glowing coal 
behind the hill, and the youthful savant again seeks the 
scene of his labours, armed with insect-net, pill-boxes, 
and a bull's-eye lantern. He pauses in the high-hedged 
lane, for the bats are evidently playing a successful game 
here, and the tiny gray moths are fluttering in and out of 
the hedge by scores. Watchfully now he holds the net ; 
there is one whose hue betokens a prize. Dash ! — yes ! 

- i 

it is in the muslin bag ; and, on holding it up against 
the western sky, he sees he has got one of the most 
beautiful of the small moths, — the "butterfly emerald." 
Yonder is a white form dancing backward and forward 
with regular oscillation in the space of a yard, close over 
the herbage. That must be the " ghost-moth," surely ! 

* Atkinson's Sihena, p. 221. 

H h 



moth-hu:n tik o. 2 o 

the very same ; and this is secured. Presently there comes 
rushing down the lane, with headlong speed, one far larger 
than the common set, and visible from afar by its white- 
ness. Prepare! Now strike! This prize, too, is won 


the " swallow-tail moth," a cream-coloured species, the 
noblest and most elegant of its tribe Britain can boast. 
- But now the west is fading to a ruddy brown, and the 
stars are twinkling overhead. He forsakes the lane, and 


with palpitating heart stands before one of the sugared 
trees. The liglit of his lantern is flashed full on the 
trunk ; there are at least a dozen flutterers playing 
around the temptation, and two or three are comfortably 
settled down and sucking away. Most of them are mean- 
looking, gray affairs ; but stay 1 what is this approaching, 
"with its ten patches of rosy white on its olive wings ? 
The lovely " peach-blossom," certainly : and now a pill- 
box is over it, and it is safely incarcerated. He moves 


cautiously to another tree. That tiny little thing, sitting 
so fearlessly, is the beautiful " yellow underwing," a sweet 
little creature, and somewhat of a rarity ; this is secured. 
And now comes a dazzling thing, the " burnished brass," 

its wings gleaming with metallic refulgence in the lamp- 
light ; but (0 w fortunate puer I) a nimble bat is before- 
hand with you, and snaps up the glittering prize before 
your eyes, dropping the brilliant wings on the ground for 
your especial tantalisation. Well, never mind ! the bat is 
an entomologist, too, and he is out mothing as well as 
you ; therefore allow him his chance. Here is the " copper 
underwing," that seems so unsuspicious that nothing 



appears easier than to box it ; but, lo ! just when the tra^i 
is over it, it glides slily to one side, and leaves you in the 
lurch. But what is this moth of commanding size and 
splendid beauty, its hind wings of the most glowing crim- 
son, like a fiery coal, bordered with black ? Ha ! the 
lovely " bride ! " If you can net her, you have a beauty. 
A steady hand 1 a sure eye ! Yes ! — fairly bagged ! And 
now you may contentedly go home through the dewy 
lanes, inhaling the 23erfume of the thorn and clematis, 
watching the twinkle of the lowly glowworms, and 
listening to the melody of the wakeful nightingales. 

It is always interesting to compare with our own expe- 
rience pictures of parallel scenes and seasons in other and 
diverse lands, drawn by those who had an open eye for the 
poetical and beautiful in nature, though not in all cases 
strictly naturalists. Here is a night scene from the sum- 
mit of the Niesen, a peak of the Central Alps, nearly 8000 
feet above the sea level : 

" I would gladly give my reader an idea of the solemn 
scenery of these elevated regions, during the calm hours 
of a summer night. As to sounds they are but few ; at 
least, when the air is still. The vicinity of man, pro- 
ductive in general of anything but repose, has caused 
almost profound silence to reign among these wilds, 
where once the cautious tread of the bear rustled nightly 
among the dry needles of the pine forest, and the howl of 
the wolf re-echoed from the waste. As I stood upon an 
elevated knoll wide of the chalet, through whose inter- 
stices e;leamed the fire over which my companions were 






amusing themselves, my ear was struck from time to 
time by an abrupt and indistinct sound from the upper 
parts of the mountain ; probably caused by the crumbling 
rock, or the fall of rubbish brought down by the cascades. 
An equally dubious and sudden sound would occasionally 
rise from the deep valley beneath ; but else nothing fell 
upon the ear, but the monotonous murmur of the mountain 
torrent working its way over stock and rock in the depth 
of the ravine. The moon barely lighted up the wide 
pastures sufficiently to distinguish their . extent or the 
objects sprinkled upon them. Here and there a tall bark- 
less pine stood conspicuously forward on the verge of the 
dark belt of forest, with its bleached trunk and fantastic 


flistening in the moonshine." * 

; I have noticed the peculiar silence of a mountain 
summit by night in the tropics, and this far more absolute 

and striking than that alluded to by Latrobe. I was 
spending a night in a lonely house on one of the Liguanea 
mountains in Jamaica, and was impressed with the very 
peculiar stillness ; such a total absence of sounds as 1 had 


never experienced before : no running water was near ; 
there was not a breath of wind ; no bird or reptile moved ; 
no insect hummed ; it was an oppressive stillness, as if 
tlie silence could be felt. 

But at lower levels in tropical countries night is not 
characterised by silence. Strange and almost unearthly 
sounds strike the ear of one benighted in the forests of 
Jamaica. Some of these are the voices of nocturnal 

' * Latrobe's Al][ienstock, p. 135. 




birds, the rapid articulations of tlie nightjars, the mono- 
tonous hoot, or shriek, or wail of the owls, the loud 
impatient screams of the A7^amus. But besides these, 
there are some which are produced by reptiles. The 

;ecko creeps stealthy and cat-like from his hollow tree, and 





utters his harsh cackle ; and other lizards are believed to 
add to the concert of squeaks and cries. And then there 
come from the depth of the forest-glooms sounds like the 
snoriug of an ojopressed sleeper, but louder ; or like the 
groaning and working of a ship's timbers in a heavy gale 
at sea. These are produced by great tree-frogs, of uncouth 
form, which love to reside in the sheathing leaves of para- 
sitic plants, always half full of cool water. These reptiles 
are rarely seen ; but the abundance and universality of the 
sounds, in the lower mountain-woods, prove how nuuie- 
rous they must be. Occasionally I have heard other 
strange sounds, as, in particular, one lovely night in June, 
when lodging at a little lone cottage on a mountain- 
side, in the midst of the woods. About midnight, as I 
sat at the open window, there came up from every part of 
the moonlit forest below, with incessant pertinacity, a clear 
shrill note, so like the voice of a bird, and specially so like 
that of the solemn solitaire, that it might easily be mis- 
taken for it, but for the inappropriate hour, and the 
locality. Like that charming bird-voice, it was beauti- 
fully trilled or shaken ; and like it, the individual voices 
were not in the same key. Listening to the mingled 
sounds, I could distinguish two particularly prominent, 
which seemed to answer each other in quick but regular 

k 4 - 


- I 


alternation : and between tlieir notes, there was the differ- 
ence of exactly a musical tone. 


Darwin speaks of the nocturnal sounds at Rio Janeiro : 
"After the hotter days, it was delicious to sit quietly in 
the garden, and watch the evening pass into night. 
Nature, ' in these climes, chooses her vocalists from more 
humble performers than in Europe. A small frog of the 
genus Hyla \i. e., of the family Hyladce, the tree-frogs 
already alluded to], sits on a blade of grass about an inch 
above the surface of the water, and sends forth a pleasing 
cTiirp ; wdien several are together, they sing in harmony 


on different notes Various cicadse and crickets at 

— r 

the same time keep up a ceaseless shrill cry, but which, 
softened by the distance, is not unpleasant. Every even- 
ing, after dark, this great concert commenced ; and often 
have I sat listening to it, until my attention has been 
drawn away by some curious passing insect.'' 
;' Edwards, in his very interesting voyage up the Amazon, 
heard one night a bell-like note, which he eagerly con- 
cluded to be the voice of the famed bell-bird. But on 
asking his Indian attendants what it was that was 
" gritando," he was told that it was a toad, — " everything 
that sings by night is a toad ! " 

- I doubt much whether the voice first referred to in the 
following extract ought not to be referred to the same 


reptilian agency : — 

: " During oui- ride home, [in Tobago,] I was startled by 
hearin!!!: what I fullv imac^incd was the whistle of a steam- 


Naturalises Voijage, (ed. 1852,) p. 29. 



engine ; but I was informed it was a noise caused by a 
beetle that is peculiar to Tobago. It is nearly the size 
of a man's hand, and fixing itself against a tree, it com- 

mences a kind of drumming noise, which gradually 
quickens to a whistle, and at length increases in shrillness 
and intensity, till it almost' equals a railroad-whistle. It 
was so loud that, when standing full twenty yards from 
the tree where it was in operation, the sound was so 
shrill, that you had to raise your voice considerably to 
address your neighbour. The entomological productions 
of the tropics struck me as being quite as astonishing in 
size and nature as the botanical or zoological wonders. 
There is another beetle, called the razor-grinder, that 
imitates the sound of a knife-grinding machine so exactly, 
that it is impossible to divest one's self of the belief that 
one is in reality listening to some ' needy knife-grinder/ 
who has wandered out to the tropical wilds on spec."" * 

This latter was pretty certainly not a beetle proper, but 
a Cicada,']' an insect of another order ; remarkable for 
its musical powers, even from the times of classical an- 
tiquity. These are doubtless sexual sounds ; the sere- 
nades of the wooing cavaliers, who, as Mr Kirby humor- 
ously says. 

** Formosam resonare doccnt Amaryllida sylvas. 


A friend who lias resided in Burmah informs me that 

Sullivan's Rambles in North and South America^ p. 307. 
+ Dr Hancock has made out tlie *^ razor-grinder " of Surinam to be 
the Cicada clani>ona. 



^, ' 


there at midnight the stranger is often startled by the 
loud voice of a species of gecko, which is frequently 
found in the houses. Its cry is exceedingly singular, and 

- 1 


resembles the word " tooktay," pronounced clearly and dis- 
tinctly as if spoken by a human tongue. It is a source 
of much alarm to the natives of India who accompany 
Eiiropeans to that country ; as they believe that the bite 
of the little lizard is invariably fatal. 

None of these sounds can compare in terrible effect 
with the deafening howls that penetrate the forests of 
Guiana after night has fallen, — the extraordinary vocal 
performances of the alouattes or howling-monkeys. They 
go, in troops, and utter their piercing cries, which Hum- 

-A * I i 

boldt affirms can be heard in a clear atmosphere at the 
distance of two miles, in a strange concord, which seems 

r- ,1 

the result of discipline, and incomparably augments the 
eflect. The same traveller informs us that occasionally 
the voices of othei animals are added to the concert ; the 


roarings of the jaguar and puma, and the shrill cries 
of alarmed birds. "It is not always in a fine moon- 
light, but more particularly at the time of storms and 
violent showers, that this tumult amons: the wild beasts 


I linger on these tropical pictures, where nature ap- 
pears under aspects so different from those of our clime. 
Here is another on the Amazon : — " No clouds obscured 
the sky, and the millions of starry lights, that in this 
clime render the moon's absence of little consequence, 
were shining upon us in their calm, still beauty. Tlie 


stream where we were anchored was narrow ; tall* trees 
drooped over the water, or mangroves shot out their long 
fino^er-like branches into the mud below. Huo^e bats 
were skimming past , night-birds were calling in strange 


voices from the tree-tops ; fire-flies darted their mimic 
lightnings ; fishes leaped above the surface, flashing in the 
starlight ; the deep, sonorous baying of frogs came up from 
distant marshes ; and loud plashings inshore suggested all 
sorts of nocturnal monsters.''* 

Yet another, by the same pleasant writer, on the banks 
of the same mighty river :^" The flowers that bloomed 
by day have closed their pjetals, and, nestled in their leafy 
beds, are dreaming of their loves. A sister host now take 
their place, making the breezes to intoxicate with per- 
fume, and exacting homage from bright, starry eyes. A 


murmur, as of gentle voices, floats upon the air. The 
moon darts down her glittering rays, till the flower- 

enamelled plain glistens like a shield; but in vain she 

strives to penetrate the denseness, except some fallen tree 
betrays a passage. Below, the tall tree-trunk rises dimly 
throuojh the darkness. Huge moths, those fairest of the 

j^.^ — ^. — j_j 

insect world, have taken the places of the butterflies, and 
myriads of fire-flies never weary in their torchlight dance. 
Far down the road comes on a blaze, steady, streaming 
like a meteor. It whizzes past, and for an instant the 
space is illumined, and dewy jewels from the leaves throw 
back the radiance. It is. the lantern-fly, seeking what he 
himself knows best, by the fiery guide ujDon his head. 



Edwards's Voyage wp the Amazon, p. 27. ' 


Tlie air of the niglit-bird's wing fans your cheek, or you 
are startled by his mournful note, 'wac-o-row, wac-o-row/ 

e ■ 

sounding dolefully — by no means so pleasantly as our 
whip-poor-will. The armadillo creeps carelessly from his 
hole, and, at slow place, makes for his feeding ground ; 
the opossum climbs stealthily up the tree, and the little 
ant-eater is out pitilessly marauding. 


** * 

Dr Livino:stone has sketched the followinoj pleasinoj 

'i ■" * 

picture of a midnight in the very heart of Africa ; but 
romantic as the region is, it lacks the gorgeousness of 
the South American forest : 

.V'-.' . 

"We were close to the reeds, and could listen to the 

■ / i : 

strange sounds which we often heard there. By day I 
had seen water-snakes putting up their heads and swim- 

» - 

liiing about. There were great numbers of others, which 

/. » 

had made little spoors all over the plains in search of the 
fishes, among the tall grass of these flooded prairies ; 

+ ' 

curious birds, too, jerked and wriggled among these reedy 

> w 

masses, and we heard human-like voices and unearthly 
sounds, with splash, guggle, jupp, as if rare fun were 
troinof on in their uncouth haunts. At one time, some- 

o o 


thing came near us, making a splashing like that of a 
canoe or hippopotamus : thinking it to be the Makololo, 

* - 

we got up, listened, and shouted ; then discharged a gun 
several times, but the noise continued without intermission 

for an hour."-[- 


If the sounds of night possess a romantic interest for. 



♦ Edwards's Voyage up the Amazon, p. 30. 
f Livingstone's Africa, p. 1G7. 


1 , 

4 h 


the naturalist, so do those animal flames with which it is 

" Stars of the earth, and diamonds of the night." 


Mr Kirby, the jnost accomplished of entomologists, 
speaks in rapturous terms of our own homely little glow- 
worm. " If,'' says he, " living, like me, in a district where 
it is rarely met with, the first time you saw this insect 
chanced to be, as it was in my case, one of those delight- 
ful evenings which an English summer seldom yields, 
when not a breeze disturbs the balmy air, and * every 
sense is joy,' and hundreds of these radiant worms, stud- 
ding tlieir mossy couch with wild effulgence, were pre- 
sented to your wondering eye in the course of a quarter 
of a mile, — ;you could not help associating with the name 
of glow-worm the most pleasing recollections." 

It is, however, in America that these " diamonds of the 
night" are observed to advantage. In Canada I have 
seen the whole air, for a few yards above the surface of a 
large field, completely filled with fire-flies on the wing, 
thicker than stars on a winter's night. The light is 
redder, more candle-like, than that of our glow-worm, and, 
being in each individual alternately emitted and concealed, 
and each of the million tiny flames performing its part in 
mazy aerial dance, the spectacle was singularly beautiful. 

A sight in every respect similar, though doubtless de- 
pendent on a different species, occurred to me in ascend- 
ing the river Alabama from the Gulf of Mexico. As the 
steamer passed booming along under the shadow of night, 

* introduction to Entomology. Letter xxy. 




reeds vrliich margined the 

river was 

the broad belt of 

thronged with myriads of dancing gleams, and the air was 

filled with what looked like thousands of shooting stars. 

Beautiful, however, as these spectacles were, I had not 
known wdiat insects could effect in the way of illumi- 
nation till I visited Jamaica. There, in the gorgeous 
night of a tropical forest, I saw them in their glory. In 
the glades and dells that open here and there from a 
windinc: mountain-road cut throuoh the tall woods, I have 
deliiihted to liniier and see the maOTificent ojoom liojhted 

up by multitudes of fire-flies of various species, peculiari- 
ties in whose luminosity — of colour, intensity, and inter- 


inittence — enabled me to distinguish each from others. I 
delighted to watch and study their habits in these lonely 


spots, while the strange sounds, snorings, screeches, and 


of nocturnal reptiles and insects, already de- 
scribed, were coming up from every part of the deep forest 


around, imparting to the scene a character which seemed 
as if it would suit the weird hunter of German fable. 
■ '. There are two kinds in particular, of larger size than 
usual, which are very conspicuous. One of these * is 
more vaojrant than the other, shooting about with a 

headloncr fl 


and rarely observed 


Its light 


of a rich orange hue when seen abroad 


frequently flies in at open windows, and, when examined 

under candle-light 


in the finofers. the ' 


linosity is yellow : when held 
seen to fill the hinder part of 

the body with dazzling effulgence, which intermits its 

* Pygolampis xantJioj^hotis, 



intensity. The other* is more commonly noticed rest- 
ing on a twig or leaf, where it gradually increases the 


intensity of its light till it glows like a torch; then as 

gradually, it allows^it to fade 

ipark, and become 


tinct ; in about a minute, however 



to appear 

again, and gradually 

to its former blaze : then 

fades again : strongly reminding the beholder of a revolv 

g light 

The hue of this is a rich yellow 

4 d 

^ h 

and sometimes a rover of the former 



and, approaching one of the 

a leaf, will 

play around it, when the intermingling of the orange and 
green lights has a most charming effect. 

In the lowland pastures of the same beauteous island, 
there is another insect "I- abundant, of much larger dimen- 


sions, which displays both red and green light. On the 
upper surface of the thorax, there are two oval tubercles, 
hard and transparent, like "bulFs-eye" lights let into a 


ship's deck ; these are windows out of which shines a 
vivid green luminousness, which appears to fill the interior 

J / 

of the chest. Then on the under surface of the body, at 
the base of the abdomen, there is a transverse orifice in 
the shelly skin, covered with a delicate membrane, which 

- A 

glows with a strong ruddy light, visible, however, only 

when the wing- 



During the dark 

nights it is most interesting to mark these large beetles 

g along over the herbage at the edges of the woods 


and in the pastures : the red glare, like that of a lamp, 

alternately flashing upon the beholder and concealed. 

* Photui-is va\ivolui'. 

t Pyro/ihoius no('tilui;us. 

i i 



accorJiiig as the insect turns its body in fliglit, but the 

'■'./■ i 

ruddy reflection on the grass beneath being cor 
visible, as the animal leisurely pursues its course. 

an tly 

and then the green light from the upper "bullVeye 
whicli seems to 


d theii 

be under the insect's control, is displayed 

ana rnen again the mingling of the two complementary 

the evolutions of fli 

IS m- 

colours, red and green, in 
describably beautiful. 

I have gazed upon these changing lights, flitting here 
and there in the openings of the dense forest, during the 
stillness of the night, till J could scarcely divest myself of 
the persuasion that human intelligence and human will 
were concerned in their production, 
once happy Indians, that enjoyed a simple life in these 

lades before Columbus discovered their re- 
treats, would then crowd up; and it required but little 


imagination to fancy myself surrounded by hundreds of 


the aborigines, holding their revels under the coolness of 
the ni^rht-season, as of old. 

Thous^hts of the 



i • 

I 4 

h k 

'*^ I 



X .i , 

, ' • - 




\ *.v 



« ^ ^ 

X P- 


i '' • 

* ■ * > 

.■ . ,■-.... . '■.,.■ -.v 

r' i 




MoDEEN science has shewn that animals and plants are 
not scattered promiscuously over the world, but placed 
in spheres according to well-defined laws. A few kinds 
seem, indeed, cosmopolitan, but the great majority have 
a limited range, each inhabiting its own region, and each, 
' in very many cases, replaced in other similar regions by 
species more or less closely allied and yet distinct. " And 
more than this ; that there are predominant forms of life 
in every region, so entirely governing the physiognomy of 
the landscape, that an accomplished naturalist, on being 
suddenly set down in any part of the earth's surface, 
would instantly tell in what region he was, by an examina^ 
tion of a few plants or animals. 

The statistics on which this science of the geogra- 
phical distribution of life is built up do not come 
within my present scope, which is to present the poetic 
side of nature ; but there is a collateral aspect of the 
same truths worthy of consideration, namely, the har- 
mony which subsists between all the parts of a natural- 
history picture. If we look with interest on the lion, the 
jaguar, the zebra, the python, at the Zoological Gardens, 
or the palms, and banaras, and bamboos in the con- 


servatories at Kew ; how vastly more interesting would 
it be to behold each in its own home ; surrounded by all 
the accessories of surface-form, of atmospheric pheno- 
luena^ of vegetation, of animal life, which properly belong 


to it, and without which it is merely an isolated object. 
Let us select a few examples. 


To see the ariel gazelle, accompany a troop of Bedouin 
Arabs across the great Syrian . desert. Grand and awe- 
inspiring in its boundless immensity, unearthly and ocean- 
likCj the eye shrinks from contemplating the empty, cheer- 
less solitude, and vainly wanders round for some object 
which may relieve the sense of utter loneliness and desola- 

' L 

tion. I- Across the plain, far away towards the west, where 
the fiery glow of the setting sun brings out their forms 
in dark relief, a long interrupted line of columns is seen 
stretching away below the horizon; while, as the troop 
approaches, prostrate heaps of ruins appear, groups of 


broken shafts and bases of columns, huge platforms of 
. sfone, and fallen capitals, while here and there a solitary 
monumental pillar rears itself above the rest in solemn 
majesty. < At the end of the sandy plain, the eye at 
length rests upon the lofty colonnades of the Temple of 
the Sun, encompassed by a dark elevated mass of ruined 
buildings; but beyond, all around, right and left, as far 
as the eye can reach, extends the vast level naked flat of 

-r J 

the great Desert, over which the eye runs in every direc- 
tion, exploring the boundless horizon, without discovering 
a human beinof, or a vestisje that tells of existinoj human 

life. Naked, solitary, unlimited space extends around 


4^0 H ARMOls^ lES. 

where man never enjoys the refreshment of a shadow, or 
rests his limbs under cover of a dwelling. There is a 
deep blue aerial haze spread over the surface, but the dis- 
tant horizon is nevertheless clear and sharply defined : 
not an eminence rises to break the monotonous flat, higher 
than the slight hillocks of sand sprinkled with a withered 
herbage, which are undiscerned except in their immediate 
proximity, while along the edge extends a large district 
covered with salt, distinguished from the rest by its 
peculiar colour. 

Suddenly a herd of gazelles is seen playfully bounding 
over the sandy mounds, and displaying their elegant 
forms, and striking though simple colours, and the in- 
imitable grace and beauty of all their actions. The 
Bedouins seize their lances, the travellers draw their 
pistols, and, distributing themselves into a wide circle, 
endeavour to encompass the herd. They seem heedless 
and unconscious for a time, and then, as the intruders 
approach, they hold up their beautiful heads, toss their 
curved and taper horns, and trot up into a closer group. 
Then, seeing their enemies spurring their steeds from 
behind the sandy hillocks all round them, they suddenly 
shoot away with the rapidity of the wind, easily dasli 
through the loosely-formed circle, and, though lances are 
cast, and pistol-shots resound, unharmed they quickly 
distance the fleetest of their pursuers ; turn and gaze, as 
if in mingled curiosity and contempt, and then away 
again, bounding over the tawny sand with an agility that 
seems rather that of flight than of running. 




• Or would you see the hyena, where he feels most at 


home^ surrounded by scenes and circumstances most con- 
to liis habits? Then plod your weary way still 

further "across the sands, and pause not till you encamp 
amid the gorgeous remains of that ancient City of da 

... 1 * ' 

'' Whose temples, palaces, — a wondrous dream, 
• That passes not away, — for many a league 
Illumine yet the desert," 

There sit down alone amid the ruined fanes lighted up 
by the setting sun, and watch the approach of night, just 

, _ 


at the breaking up of the long dry season. Everywhere 
around are the remains of tlie glorious city; walls, and 
gateways, and columns of polished granite of rosy hue, or 
of marble that gleams lilce snow in the bright moonlight ; 
many standing in their desolateuess, but many more 
prostrate and half-buried in the drifted sand. Some of 
the pillars are but dimly seen in the gloomy shadow of 


the lofty walls, others stand out boldly and brightly in 
the soft moonbeams, while here and there a brilliant 
gleam slants down through the windows of a ruined 
edifice, and illumines the deep and delicate sculpture of 
a' fallen capital, or spreads over a heap of disjointed 
stones. Under yon dark and gloomy portal the eye 
wanders over distant funereal towers crownino* the emi- 
nences, the noble gateway of the grand avenue, and lines 
of columns gradually lost in the distance. 

oBut while you gaze, there is a change. The breeze, 
which had lifted the sand in playful eddies, drops to per- 


feet calmness. Black clouds are collecting over the 
mountain rano;e that forms the distant horizon. The 
moon is obscured, and the whole heaven becomes black 


with tempest. A hurricane suddenly swx^eps through the 
ruined palaces, and fills the whole air with a dense fog of 
blindino; sand. Then a flash of forked liohtnino- shoots 

between the columns, illuminating them for an instant, 
and is instantaneously followed by a bursting crash of ^ 
thunder, wdiich makes the totterins; fanes tremble, and -i 

I ^ 

demon. Again, the cackling mirth echoes along the 

ruined halls, as if exulting in the wild war of the ele- 


ments, and in the desolation around. • Lo ! from out of 

yon low arch, in the Placu of Tombs, gleam two fiery eyes. 

h r 

and forth stalks into the lightning the fell hyena. - - With 
bristling mane and grinning teeth, the obscene monster 

glares at you, and warns you to secure a timely retreat. 
Another appears, bearing in its jaws a loathsome human 
skull, which it has found in the caravan track. You 

huge drops of warm rain, like blood- drops, are spattering ^ 
the stones. The rain now comes down in one universal 

- — ri I 

deluge, flooding the floors, and pouring off" from the old 
marble platforms in cataracts. Flash follows flash in 
one continuous blaze of blinding light, bringing out the 
grim marble towers and pillars against the black clouds 
of midnight w^ith an awfully sublime distinctness ; and 
crash after crash, and peal after peal of thunder are 

H , 

blending into one uninterrupted roll. -2 ; 



But amidst the deep roar rises from the gaunt heaps 
of stone an unearthly sound, like the hiugh of a 






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shudder as you hear tlie bones crack and grind between 
the powerful teeth, and gladly shrink away from the 
repulsive vicinity. 

The home of the great Siberian stag is an^iong the most 
magnificent scenery in the world. Search for him 

amidst the bold precipices of the Altaian chain, where 
enormous mountains of primeval formation are split and 
cleft into the wildest ravines, and where cascades fall in 
snowy foam down the terrible gorges bounded by sheer 
cliffs that almost meet far overhead, and shut out the li^ht 
of heaven. Here is a little dell, embosomed in the moun- 
tains, as full of flowers as an English garden, — irises and 
columbines, primroses and peonies, of many rich hues 
and of kinds unfamiliar to us, and of a luxuriant growth 
which reaches up to a man's shoulders ;— then a tiny 
basin of clear water, intensely black from its unruffled 
stillness and its fathomless depth. Now the traveller 
crosses a sharp ridge, crowned with colossal needles of 
naked granite, where the furious gale, shrieking and howl- 
ing through the crevices, threatens to hurl horse and 


mail a thousand fathoms down ; — then he passes into a 


forest where not a breath waves the tops of the ancient 

It is a region where animal life is not very abundant, 
but where the framework of the solid earth itself stands 
revealed in unrivalled gorgeousness. The cliffs are here 
of crimson or purple jDorphyry, as brilliant as the dyed 
products of the loom, there of dark-red granite seamed 
with thick veins of pure rose-coloured quar*^z, transparent 





as glass. Here a vast, uncouth column of black 
rears its fused cylinders from the midst of a narrow 
ravine ; and here a vast precipice appears of white marble, 
as pure as that of^Paros. Rocks of all hues, bright red, 
pur23le, yellow, green ; of all combinations of colours, 
white with purple spots, white with bhie veins, brown 
with pale green streaks, pale crimson with veins of black 
and "yellow, are scattered about in unheeded confusion ; 


while, above all, the rich and splendid jasper rises in 
enormous masses, as if it were the vilest rock, yet glitter- 
ing in gorgeous beauty, — mountains of gems. Here is 
one of a dark sea-green, with cream-coloured veins ; there 
a mass of deep violet ; and here a ribbon-stripe, marked 
irregularly with alternate bands of red, brown, and green ; 
and yonder is a huge heap of shattered blocks of the 
richest plum-purple, transmitting the light in sparkling 
lustre through their translucent substance, as they lie 
where they have been tumbled down from their beds by 
the force of the torrent, and presenting the most agree- 
able contrasts between their own deep, rich, imperial hue, 
and that of the yellow-green moss that springs in cushion- 
like tufts from their angles and crevices. 

You pursue the little mountain stream, through the 
thick mass of tangled cedars and fallen rocks, slippery 
and treacherous to the unwary foot, wading from stone 
to stone through many a narrow gorge, till there bursts 
before you a beautiful cascade, that comes bounding down 
in three leaps from a height of sixty feet. The water is 
white and sparkling as it plunges over the purple preci- 


- ( 




pice ; the lowest fall spreading out like a fan of thin 


gauze, hanging over the rocky wall, and screening the 
black cavern behind. 

' With difficulty you climb through a ravine to the top 
of the waterfall, and follow the stream for a few hun- 
dred yards higher, till you find its or 
tain tarn, deeply embosomed amidst perpendicular walls 
of rock, with no opening or outlet except the narrow cleft 
by which the tiny stream escapes. How beautiful is the 
little quiet lake, clear as crystal, but of great depth, and 
hence of a deep green hue, receiving and absorbing the 
sun's rays in its profundity, like a floor of polished beryl ! 
And there on the opposite precipice, gazing down into 
the distant water, stand in antlered majesty three noble 
stags; Magnificent creatures ! here they are at home, 
dwelling amidst this grandeur, the very presiding genii 




i\. We are familiar, by report, with that great bird of 
mighty wing, the lammergeyer or bearded eagle, whose 
red eye is a fair index of its cruel ferocity, that preys not 
only on birds and quadrupeds, but even on children. We 
commonly associate this proud and savage bird with the 
crags of the Alps, but it is spread over the whole central 

' line of . Europe and Asia, wherever lofty and rugged 
mountain-chains arise. Mr Atkinson speaks of having 

: shot one in a scene which for savage grandeur surpasses 

+ i 

anything in the Alps. It was among the Alatou moun- 

p V 

* Every feature in this picture is in Atkinson's Siberia; in the 
c:ronping only have I taken any liberty. 


tains in Chinese Tartary, where the river Cora breaks out 
grandly into the plain, emerging from a rent in the lofty 
mountain-chain, where the rocks rise several thousand 
feet. " As I detemiined," says this intrepid traveller, " to 
explore this mighty gorge, and sketch the scenery, our 
horses were left at the mouth of the chasm, it being im- 
possible to ride up the gorge ; and track there was none. 
We had to climb over huge masses of rock ; some we 
were obliged to creep under, they being much too high 
to climb over: in other places, bushes and plants were 
growing in tropical luxuriance. A scramble of five hours 
brought me to a point I could not pass ; here the rocks 
rose quite perpendicularly from the boiling flood, making 
ascent to the summit impossible. Nor can this be ac- 
complished either in spring or summer ; while in winter 
the chasm is so deep in snow — there being no aoul 
[hamlet] within several hundred versts — that it would be 
madness to attempt it at that time ; thus these grand and 
wild scenes are closed to man, and the tiger remains un- 
disturbed in his lair, the bear in his den, and the maral 
and wild deer range the wooded parts unmolested. A 
very large bearded eagle was found amongst these crags. 


which I shot. After makino; several sketches, I returned 
to the horses, and ascended towards the great plateau be- 
tween the mountains, where I arrived in the evening, tired 

and hungry. The dark clouds which had obscured the 
mountains cleared off, and gave me a most splendid view 
of the Actou, which runs up towards the Ilia ; the snowy 
peaks shining like rubies in the setting sun, while all 



below them was blue and purple, with the shades of even- 

in<r creeping over the lower ranire. 



In the foreground 

was my yourt [hut], with the Kirghis cooking the sheep 
in a large cauldron, while the camels and horses were lying 

d standing around 



I could 

sketching the scene, which will ever be impressed upon 
my memory, as well as the splendid sunset over the 

» * 

The describer, it must be remembered, is an artist in 
search of the picturesque. • His eye was mainly on the 
scenery; but surely the kingly eagle, seated in lone 
majesty on that craggy throne of his, and surveying with 

haughty eye his superb domain, was a very gTand element 
in the picture. 

Again ; let us look at Darwin and Captain Fitzroy 

threading their j^erilous way from the Atlantic to the 

Pacific throuojh the Beaole Channel. 

It is a straight 

passage, not more than two miles wide, but a hundred 
and twenty miles long, bounded on each side by moun- 
tains rising in unbroken sweep from the water's edge, 


and terminating in sharp and jagged points three thou- 
sand feet high. Tlie mountain-sides for half their height 
are clothed with a dense forest, almost wholly composed 
of a single kind of tree, the sombre-leafed southern 
beech. The upper line of this forest is well defined, and 
perfectly horizontal ; below, the drooping twigs actually 
dip into the sea. Above the forest line the crags are 
covered by a glittering mantle of perpetual snow, and 


* Siberia, p. 574. 


cascades are pouring their foaming waters through the 
woods into the Channel below. In some places magnifi- 
cent glaciers extend from the mountain-side to the water s 
edge. " It is scarcely possible to imagine anything more 
beautiful than the beryl-like blue of these glaciers, and 


especially as contrasted with the dead-white of the upper 
expanse of snow.'' Heavy and sudden squalls come down 
from the ravines, raising the sea, and covering it with 
foam, like a dark j)lain studded with patches of drifted 
snow, which the furious wind is ever lifting in sheets of 
driving spray. The albatross with its wide-sjjread wings 
comes careering up the Channel against the wind, and' 
screams as if it were the spirit of the storm. The surf 
breaks fearfully against the narrow shores, and mounts to 
an immense height against the rocks. Yonder is a 23ro- 


montory of blue ice, the sheer end of a glacier ; the wind 
and sea are telling upon it, and now dow^i plunges a huge 
mass, which breaking into fragments, bespreads the angry 
sea with mimic icebergs. 

In the midst of this war of the elements, appear a pair 
of sperm-whales. They swim within stone's-cast of the 
shore, spouting at intervals, and jumping in their un- 


wieldy mirth clean out of the waters, falling back on their 
huge sides, and splashing the sea high on every hand, 
with a sound like the reverberation of a distant broad- 
side.* How appropriate a place for these giants of the 

J ■ 

deep to appear ! and how immensely must their presence 
have enhanced the wild grandeur of that romantic scene 1 

■ X 

* Darwin's Voyage ^ chap. x. 

. ' 


AVe turn from this inhospitable strait to a region if 
possible even more forbidding, more stern, more grandly 
awful ; one of the passes of the mighty Andes, the Cor- 
dilleras of Peru. 

"W^.now came," says a traveller, "to the Jaula, or 
Cage, from which the pass takes its name, where we took 
up our quarters for the night, under the lee of a solid 
mass of granite upwards of thirty feet square, with the 
clear, beautiful heavens for our canopy. Well may this 
place be called a cage. To give a just idea of it would be 
next to. impossible, for I do not think a more wild or 
grander scene in nature could possibly exist ; neverthe- 
less I shall attempt a description. The foaming river, 
branching off into different channels formed by huge 
masses of granite lying in its course, ran between two 
gigantic mountains of about one thousand five hundred 
feet high, and not more than two hundred yards distant 
from each other ; so that to look up at the summits of 

* i 

either, we had to lay our heads completely back on our 
shoulders. Behind iis, these tremendous mountains met 
in a point, round which we had just passed, but now 
appeared as one mountain, closing our view in a distance 
of not more than four or five hundred yards ; before was 
the mighty Cordillera, a mass of snow, aj)pearing to block 
up further progress. Thus were we completely shut up 
in a den of, mighty mountains; to look up either way 
before, behind, right, or left — excited astonishment, awe, 
and admiration. Huge masses of granite, that had fallen 
from the awful heights above, lay scattered about, and 


■< - 


formed our various shelters for the nidit. The torrent, 
which now had become very formidable, rushed down 
with fury, bounding and leaping over the rugged rocks 
which lay in its course, keeping up a continued foam and 
roar close to our wild resting-place. The mules were 
straying about picking up the scanty shrubs ; and our 
wild, uncouth-looking peons were assembled round a fire 
under the lee of a large rock, which altogether rendered 

it a scene most truly wild and surprising. 

Can animal life habitually exist in these awful soli- 
tudes? Is it possible that any creature can make its 
home amidst this waste of stark granite and everlasting 
ice ? Yes ; the guanaco, or Peruvian camel, delights to 
dwell here, and is as truly characteristic of the region as 
the Arabian camel is of the sandy desert. It snuffs the 
thin air in its wild freedom, and specially delights in 
those loftier ridges which the Peruvians term punas, 
where the elements appear to have concentrated all their 
sternness. It was the sudden appearance of a guanaco, 
on a lofty peak above the party, that gave occasion to the 
above description. The peons, with their dogs, had pur- 
sued it, and having overtaken it, had dragged down the 

carcase, and were now roasting its flesh over their camp-fire. 
The wild reindeer, in his native snows, is seldom visited 
by civilised man ; and it is a thing to be remembered 
during life to have seen him there. Climb the precipices 
of that rugged mountain-chain that forms the backbone 
of Norway ; cross plain after plain, each more dreary than 

Brand's TravcU in Peru, p. 102. 


the last, as you reach a higher and a yet higher elevation, 


till you stand, in the sharp and thin air, catching your 
breath on the edge of the loftiest, the wildest, and most 
barren of those snowy fjelds. The highest hut you have 
left far below. You will spend the day and the night, 
(such night as an unsetting sun allows,) too, in traversing 
its lonely waste, and you will see neither habitation nor 
human being, nor trace of human works ; no tree, nor 

shrub, nor heath, nor even earth ; nothing but hard, bare 
barren, lichen-clad rocks, or enormous fields and patches 
of snow. Here and there a little reindeer-moss fills the 



crevices of the shattered rocks, and this is all the verdure 
of this wilderness of rocks and snow. You must plunge 
through the soft snow above your knees for many a weary 
mile ; this is very fatiguing : at other times, through bogs 
of moss and melted snow ; and then, perhaps, through a 
wide torrent, whose waters reach to your middle. Now 
you haye to cross a ridge of sharp rock, which stands like 
an island out of the snow, the sharp edges of the granite 
cutting into the leather of your shoes, now completely 
soft and sodden with the melted snow. Now you have 

\ \ 

to descend a steep snow-mountain ; this is very difficult, 
and not without considerable dano;er if you are unaccus- 
tomed to it. As every one may not know what the de- 

_ _ + ^ 

scent of a Norwegian snow-mountain is, it may be well 

to explain it. Imagine a very steep mountain covered 

with, deep, never-melting snow, perhaps five or six hun- 
dred feet in height, the side presenting a bank of snow as 
steep as the roof of a house. To try whether the descent 


is practicable, the guide places a large stone at the top, 
gives it a gentle push, and watches its progress. If the 
snow is soft enough to impede its pace, and allow it to 
form a furrow for itself and glide gradually down, the 
descent is pronounced feasible ; if, on the contrary, the 
snow is not soft enough for this, but the stone descends 
in successive bounds, it is pronounced too dangerous to 
attempt. It is quite wonderful to see the rapidity and 
ease with which the guide will shoot down these snow- 


mountains, like an arrow from a bow. Placing both feet 
together, with nothing in his hands to steady him, but 


bearing your heavy provision-box and blankets at his 
back, down he goes, his pace accelerating every second 
till he reaches the bottom, and enveloped all the way 
down in a wreath of snow, which he casts off on both 
sides of his feet and legs as if it had been turned up by 
a plough, and marking his track by a deep furrow. You 
follow much more slowly, holding the barrel of your gun 
across you, while the butt end is plunged deep into the 
snow to steady you, and to slacken your pace. If you 
lean forward too much, you are in danger of going down 
head over heels ; if you lean back too much, your feet 
will slip from under you, and the same result wiU inevi- 


tably follow, and you will have a roll of, perhaps, some 
hundred feet, without a chance of stopping till you reach 
the bottom ; by no means pleasant even on snow, and 
especially when the snow-hill ends (as is not unfrequently 
the case) in a rocky precipice, to roll over which must be 
certain death. 


t .^_^ 


Suddcnl}^, rounding a rocky cliff, the guide makes a 
quicTc movement with his hand, and whispers the single 
word ." reins ! " pointing as he crouches down to three 
black specks on the white mountain-side full two miles 
off Now - all is excitement. The telescope distinctly 
makes them out, — an old buck above, as guard and 
watcher, a doe and her calf a little lower down. Wliat 
caution now is necessary in stalking the noble game ! 
There is a broad valley to cross full in their view ; you 
must creep low, and in line, concealing your rifles, lest the 
flashing of the sun on the barrels betray you, and not 
"speaking except in the gentlest whisper. The valley is 
securely crossed ; there is a brawling torrent to be waded, 
and you will be among the rocks. 

.13*. Has the buck winded you? He springs to his feet, 
:, shakes his spreading antlers, and sniffs the air, then walks 


V leisurely up the hill-side, followed by his family, and all 

disappear over the rocky ridge. 
e.iU Now is the time for speed! Up, up the hill, scramble 
: under, over, through the great loose fragments, but noise- 
rlessly, silently, for the game are probably not far off 
'Now you are at the rock over which you saw them go. 
- The guide peeps cautiously over, and beckons. You, too, 
..peep, and there they are, all unsuspecting, a hundred yards 

off. The old guide now lies down on the snow, and 
'wriiTsrles alono; from rock to rock to 2;et round, whence he 

may drive them toward you. The deer are still busy 

munching the moss, which they scrape from beneath the 



A few minutes of breathless excitement. The hunter 
shews himself on yonder peak. The noble buck trots 
majestically towards you, his head thrown up, and his 
fine horns spreading far on each side of his back. He 
stops — sniffs — starts ; but too late ! the rifle -ball has 
sped, and his hoofs are kicking up the blood-stained 
snow in dying convulsions.* 

In our homely sheep, it must be confessed, the utili- 
tarian element prevails over the poetic; but wi;h the 
burrell, or wild sheep, of the Himalaya Peaks, the case is 
far otherwise. Twice the size of an English ram, with 
horns of such vastness, that into the cavity of those which 
lie bleaching on the frozen rocks, the fox sometimes creeps 
for shelter, -f* dwelling in the most inaccessible regions, 
the snow-covered ranges of the loftiest mountains in the 
world, or the mighty spurs that jut out from them, shy 
and jealous of the approach of man, whom it discerns at 
an immense distance, — the burrell is considered as the 
first of Himalayan game animals, and the killing of it the 
ne plus ultra of Himalayan shooting. 

How grand are the regions in which it dwells ! An en- 
thusiastic and successful sportsman furnishes us with the 


oUowing vivid picture of the wild sheep and its home : 

"We started early to reach the source of the mighty 
Ganges. The opposite bank being the best ground for 
burrell, we were in great hopes that we might find sufii- 
' lent snow left to enable us to cross the river ; but the 

* See "Notes on Norway," bv A. C. Smith, in the Zoologist for 1851. 
I" Hooker, Himal. Jour., i. p. 243 



snow that at times bridges over the stream was gone. 
The walking was bad, for in all the small tributary streams 


and rocks 

incrusted with ice, which made 
them very difficult to cross. On the opposite side we saw 
immense flocks of burrell, but there was no getting at 

them. ■ 

" At last, the great glacier of the Ganges was reached, 
and never can I forget my first impressions when I beheld 
it before me in all its savage grandeur. The glacier, 
thickly studded with enormous loose rocks and earth, is 
about a mile in width, and extends upwards many miles, 
towards an immense mountain, covered with perpetual 

base, and its glittering summit piercing 



^ > 

snow down to its 
the very skies, rising 21,000 feet above the level of the 
sea. The chasm in the glacier, through which the sacred 
stream rushes forth into the light of day, is named the 
Cow's Mouth, and is held in the deepest reverence by all the 
Hindoos ; and the regions of eternal frost in its vicinity 
are the scenes of many of their most sacred mysteries. 
The Ganges enters the world no puny stream, but bursts 
forth from its icy womb, a river thirty or forty yards in 
breadth, of great depth and very rapid. A burrell was 
killed by a lucky shot across the river just at the mouth ; 
it fell backwards into the torrent, and was no more seen. 
Extensive as my travels since this day have been through 
these beautiful mcuntains, and amidst all the splendid 
scenery I have looked on, I can recall none so strikingly 
magnificent as the glacier of the Ganges." * 

, * Markliam, Shooting in the Ilimal., p. 57. 



Again ; if we wish to see the vastest of terrestrial 
animals, it is not witliin the bars of a travelling menagerie 
that we should look for him, nor in the barbaric pomp or 
domestic bondage of India, but in the noble forest-glens 
of Africa. 

. Mr Pringle has drawn a graphic sketch of such a valley, 
two or three miles in length, surrounded by a wild and 
bewildering region, broken into innumerable ravines, in- 
cumbered with rocks, precipices, and impenetrable woods 
and jungles, among lofty and sterile mountains. The valley 
itself is a beautiful scene ; it suddenly bursts on the view 
of the traveller as he emerges from a wooded defile. The 
slopes and sides are clothed with the succulent spek-boom ; 
the bottom is an expanded grassy savanna or meadow, 
beautifully studded with mimosas, thorns, and tall ever- 
greens, sometimes growing singly, sometimes in clumps 
and groves of varying magnitude. 

Foot-tracks deeply impressed in the soft earth are 
everywhere visible ; paths, wide and well trodden, like 
military roads, have been opened up through the dense 
thorny forest, apparently impenetrable. Through one of 
these a numerous herd of elephants suddenly appears on 



the scene ; the great bull-elephant, the patriarch of the 
herd, marches in the van, bursting through the jungle, 
as a bullock would through a field of hops, treading down 
the thorny brushwood, and breaking off with his proboscis 
the larger branches that obstruct the passage ; the females 
and younger males follow in his wake in single file. 

* Postidaca^ia nfra. 


i^ptlier herds are seen scattered over tlie valley as the 

.prospect opens ; some browsing on the juicy trees, others 

reposing, and others regaling on the fresh roots of huge 


. mimosas which have been torn up ; while one immense 

L -■ 

monster is amusing himself, as if it were but play to him, 
with tearing up these great trees for his expectant family. 
He digs with his stout tusks beneath the roots, now on 


this side, now on that, now using one tusk, now the other, 


prizing, and forcing away, and loosening the earth all 
around, till at length with a tremendous pull of his twisted 

' to 

proboscis, he tears up the reluctant tree, and inverting the 
trunk amidst a shower of earth and stones, exposes the 


juicy and tender rootlets to his hungry progeny. Well 


may the traveller say that a herd of elephants browsing 
in majestic tranquillity amidst the wild magnificence of 
an African landscape is a very noble sight, and one, of 


which he will never forget the impression.* 

.Who has ever gazed upon the lion under conditions so 
fitted to augment his terrible majesty, as those in which 
the mighty hunter of South Africa was accustomed to 
encounter him ? Who of us would have volunteered to 
be his companion, when night after night he watched in 
the pit that he had dug beside the Massouey fountain in 
the remote Bamangwato country? There is the lonely 
pool, situated in the open valley, silent and deserted by 
day, but marked with well-beaten tracks converging to its 
margins from every direction ; tracks in which the foot- 
prints of elephants, rhinoceroses, giraffes, zebras, and 

• African Slcetches: 


O^ ^ "^ '*"i^ 


antelo]3es, are crossed and recrossed by those of the great 
padding paws of huge lions. The hunter observes the 
paths, and selecting a spot, digs a hole in the earth just 

h to allow him and his Hottentot attendant to 
lie down in. He places his bedding in it, and prepares to 
spend his nights there. About sunset he repairs to his 
strange bed, and, with the sparkling stars above him, and 


silence deep as death around him, he kee23S his watch. • 

Soon the stillness is broken by many sounds. The 
terrible roar of a lion is heard in the distance ; jackals 
are heard snorting and snarling over a carcase ; a herd of 
zebras gallops up toward the fountain, but hesitates to 
approach ; then a pack of wild dogs is heard chattering ' 

around. By and by, a heavy clattering of hoofs comes 
up the valley, and on sweeps a vast herd of wildebeest ; 
the leader approaches the water, when the hunter's rifle 
sends a ball through him, and he falls dead on the 

The herd disperses in terror ; and presently a lion utters 
an appalling roar from a bushy ridge just opposite, which 
is succeeded by a breathless silence. 

A quarter of an hour elapses. A peculiar sound causes 
the hunter to lift his head, when he sees, on the opposite 
edge of the jdooI, a huge and majestic male lion, with a 
black mane which nearly sweeps the ground, standino- 
over the dead wildebeest. He seems suspicious; and 
stooping to seize the carcase, drags it up the slope. 
Again the intrepid watcher points his trusty rifle, and 
the tawny monarch sinks to the shot. At lenojth with a 




^ ' 

growl he rises, and limps away to a bushy cover, 

where he roars mournfully, and dies. 
>^-'- Or- take him a few nights afterwards, when from the 
same - pit he sees six lions together approach to drinlc. 
Six lions at midnight there ! two men here ! nothing be- 
tween the parties but a little pool, which a ten minutes' 
walk would encircle ! One of the lions detects the in- 
truder, and, with her eye fixed upon him, creeps round 
the head of the fountain. What a moment of suspense ! 
But once more the fatal ball speeds ; and the too curious 

lioness, mortally wounded, bounds 





followed by her five companions in a cloud of dust. 
.: Very different from such a scene is the gorgeous gloom 
of a Brazilian forest, where the wiry- haired sloth hangs 
from the branches, the toothless ant-eater breaks up with 
its hoofs the great earthy nestS of the termites, and the 
armadillo burrows in the soil ; where the capybara and 
the tapir rush to the water ; where painted toucans cry to 
each other, golden-plum aged trogons sit on tlie topmost 

boughs, and sparkling humming-birds flit 

over the 

flowers ; where beetles, like precious stones, crawl up the 
hu^e trunks, and butterflies of all brilliant hues fan the 


still and loaded air. Not like the small and pale or 
sombre-hued species that we see in the fields and gardens 
of Britain are these : their numbers are prodigious ; their 
variety bewildering ; many of them are adorned with the 
most splendid colours, and some of the finest are of 

immense size. Very characteristic of 

region are the 

species of tlie genus Morpho ; great butterflies larger 


than a man's open hand, with the lower surface of the 
wings adorned with a pearly iridescence, and concentric 
rings, while their upper face is of an uniform azure, so 
intensely lustrous that the eye cannot gaze upon it in the 
sun without pain. 

Solemn are those primeval labyrinths of giant trees, 
tangled Avith ten thousand creepers, and roofed with lofty 
arches of light foliage, diversified with masses of glorious 
blossom of all rich hues ; while from the borders of the 
igaripes, or narrow canals that permeate the lower levels, 
spring most elegant ferns, lowly sensitive mimosas, great 
and fantastic herbaceous plants, marbled and spotted 
arums, closely compacted fan-palms with spreading crowns, 
and multitudes of other stranoe forms of veo'etation in 

O O 

an almost inconceivable profusion. The gigantic scale of ' 
life strongly excites astonishment in these forests. In 
Europe we associate flowers with herbs or shrubs, but 
here we see trees of colossal height, in all the splendour 
of bloom, which clothes the whole crown with its colour. 

The traveller sees with delight, trees covered with 
magnificent, large lilac, orange, crimson, or white 
blossoms, contrasting beautifully with the surrounding 
varied tints of green. After enjoying, with a restless 
glance, this display of colours, he turns to the deep 
shades which lie disclosed, solemn and mournful, be- 

■- ^ I 

'*. ' 

I ( 

tween the gigantic trees on the wayside. The flame- 



coloured raceme of a tillandsia, resembling an immense 


pine-ap23le, glows like fire among the daik foliage.' 
Again attention is attracted by the charming orchids, 





: . ^jr. 

? \ 



with most fantastic flowers, climbing up the straight 
trunks of the trees, or picturesquely covering their 
branches, which seldom shoot out from the trunk at a 
less height than fifty to eighty feet from the ground. 
From the fertility of the soil, the trees spring up so 
densely, that, when young, their branches, not having 
room to expand freely, strive to overtop one another. 
The tillandsias nestle at the ramification of the smaller 
branches, or upon excrescences, where they often grow to 
an immense size, and have the appearance of an aloe, the 
length of a man, hanging down gracefully from a giddy 
height over the head of the passer-by. 

Among the various plants which spring from the 
branches or cling to the stems of the trees, are gray, moss- 

— * 

like plants hanging down, not unlike horses' tails, from 


the branches which support the orchids and tillandsias ; 
or one might fancy them the long beards of these vener- 
able giants of the forest, that have stood unbent beneath 
the weight of a thousand years. Myriads of lianes hang 
down to the ground, or are suspended in the air, several 
inches thick, and not unfrequently the size of a man's 
body, coated witli bark like the branches of the trees. 
But it is impossible for any one to conceive the fantastic 
forms they assume, all interlaced and entangled : some- 
times they depend like straight poles to the ground, 
where striking root, they might, from their thickness, be 
taken for trees ; at other times they resemble large loops 
or rings, from ten to twenty feet in diameter, or are so 
twisted that they look like cables. Sometimes they laca 


the tree regularly from distance to distance ; often tliey 
embrace it so closely as to clioke it, and cause the leaves 
to fall off, so that it stretches out its dead gigantic arms 
like branches of white coral, amoncr the fresh verdure of 

the forest, — a picture of death, surprising us in the 
midst of the most blooming life : frequently they give 
the old trunk a new covering of leaves, so that the 
same tree appears clothed in several different kinds of 


So, if space permitted, we might depict the brown 

bear emerging from his winter retreat in the dark pine 
forests of Scandinavia ; or the white bear seated on a 
solitary iceberg in the Polar Sea ; or the whale spouting 
in the same frost-bound waters, and pursued by the har- 
poon of his relentless persecutors ; or the moose impri- 
soned in the " yard " which he has himself formed by 
treading down the successive snows in the lofty woods of 
America ; or the chamois upon the peaks of the Alps, with 
the eagle sweeping over him as he gazes contemptuously 
down on the jager far below ; or the patient camel toiling 
along the unbounded waste of tawny sand ; or the kangaroo 
bounding over the Australian scrub ; or the seal basking 
in his rocky cavern, while the surf is dashing high on the 
cliffs around ; or the wild-duck reposing at the margin of 
a smooth river, when the red light of evening is reflected 
in the line left by the tall and almost meeting trees over- 
head ; or a group of snow-white egrets standing motion- 
less in the shallows of a reedy lake at dawn of day ; or 


Travels of Prince Adalbert in Brazil, p. 15, et scq. 



the petrel careering over the long waves in the midst of 
the wide ocean ; or the tiny cyprides and Cyclopes disport- 

ing in 



groves of their world, 



tide-pool hollowed out of a limestone rock by the action 



These and many more combinations might 

be suggested ; and we shall surely see how incomparably 
is the interest which attaches to each form enhanced, by 


associating with it those accompaniments and conditions 
of being, in which alone it is at home. 

, t 

% \ 

\ ■■ 


f* ' 


. 4 


' ^ 


I I 

; : 



I USE tlie term at the head of this chapter for lack of a 
better. There are no real discrepancies in nature, but I 
may conveniently employ the word to distinguish a class 
of phenomena not without interest. We occasionally 
meet v/ith animal or vegetable life existing under condi- 
tions, not which are not as truly proper to them as the 
jungle to the tiger or the river to the crocodile, but which 
appear to us strange and incongruous ; which create in 
us surprise, as the most prominent emotion of the mind, 
surprise at finding life, or any particular phase of it, in 
circumstances where we should not a priori have at 
all expected to find it. Examples will best explain what 


I mean. 

Take, then, the existence of animal life at groat depths 
of ocean. The researches of Sars, MacAndrew, and others, 
in the Norwegian seas, and those of Edward Forbes in 
the Korean, have shewn that mollusca exist under two 
hundred fathoms of water. Dead shells, indeed, are con- 
tinually dredged from far greater depths ; but these may 
have been voided by the many fishes which feed on mol- 
lusca, and would, of course, fall to the bottom, whatever 
the depth of the sea in which the fish might happen to be 


A ■ ^ 





swiiiiming. Dentalium entale, Leda pi/gmcea, and Cryp- 
todon jlexuosus have been taken alive in the northern 
seas at two hundred fathoms' depth : in the ^gean Sea, 
Kellia ahyssicola and HecBva cuspidata, two little bivalves, 
were dredged, the former in one hundred and eighty, the 
latter in one hundred and eighty-five fathoms; and Area 
imhricata in two hundred and thirty fathoms. 

Nor is the power of sustaining life at such immense 
depths confined to the moUuscan tribes ; zoophytes rival 
them in this respect. Great tree-like corals, Primnoa and 



Oculina, spring from the bottom-rocks, to which they are 
affixed, at a depth of a hundred fathoms and upwards : 
the magnificent Ulocyathus arcticus, a free coral, recently 
discovered by Sars, lives on the mud at two hundred 
fathoms ; Bolocera Tuedice, Tealia digitata, and Peachia 
BoecJcii, soft-bodied sea-anemones, reach to the same 
depth, while other species of the same race, — Capnea 
sanguinea and Actinopsis flava live at the amazing depth 
of from two hundred and fifty to three hundred fathoms. 
It has been o})served that the shells of moUusca which 
inhabit very deep water are almost entirely devoid of 
positive colour, and this has been supposed to be the 
inevitable result of the darkness in which they live ; for 
it is assumed that all or nearly all the sun's light must 
be absorbed by so vast a mass of w^ater. But yet most 
of these zoophytes are highly-coloured animals, — the 
Actinopsis being of a fine yellow, the Bolocera, Tealia, 
and Capnea of a red more or less intense, and the 
Ulocyathus of the most refulgent scarlet. The pressure 



of a column of sea-water, from twelve to eighteen hun- 
dred feet in height, must be quite inconceivable to us ; 
and we are at a loss to imagine how the corporeal tissues 
can sustain it, and how the vital functions can be carried on. 
Yet the presence of these creatures implies the presence 
of others. The mollusca are mostly feeders on infusoria 
and diatomacece ; therefore these minute animalcules 


and plants must habitually live there. The zoophytes 
are all carnivorous, and being all stationary, or nearly so, 
the prey on which they feed must be abundant there in 
proportion to their requirements. Perhaps this may 
partly consist of the mollusca ; but it is highly probable 
that Crustacea and annelida likewise abound.* One 
species of the former class has, indeed, been discovered 
in the profound sea. A small kind of lobster, named 
Calocaris Macandrece, about as large as a small prawn, 
was dredged by Mr MacAndrew, (after whom it has been 
named,) in the Scottish seas, at a depth of one hundred 
and eighty fathoms. | 

Who would expect to find the expanse of everlasting 

snow in the Arctic regions, and at the summits of the 
Alps, the seat of abundant life, whether vegetable or ani- 

' 4 

mal? Yet such is the fact. Ross observed, in Baffin's 


Bay, a range of cliffs covered with snow which was tinged 
with a brilliant crimson colour for an extent of eight 
miles, the hue penetrating from the surface down to the 

Woodward's Mollusca 

oin)eg,y ii. pp., 73, 87 
t Bell's BriL Crust, 

- I 


very rock, a depth of twelve feet. The same phenomenon 


has been observed in other parts of the Polar re^^ions, on 
the glaciers of the Alps, and in other similar circum- 
stances. Scientific investigation has proved this colour 
to be caused by the excessive abundance of minute organ- 
isms, mostly vegetable, of a very simple character, in the 
form, according to Dr Greville, of a gelatinous layer, on 
which rest a vast number of minute globules, resembling, 
in brilliance and colour, fine garnets.* Professor Agassiz, 
however, maintains that these globules are not vegetables. 

but the eggs of a minute though highly-organised animal, 
one of the Rotifera, named Philodina roseola, which 

animal he found in abundance, with the globules, in the 

glacier of the Aar.-f- Other minute animals were also 
found in the snow. 

In Canada I have found, in the depth of winter, living 
and active insects on the surface of the snow, which are 
seen nowhere else, and at no other season. Little hoj)- 
ping atoms, of singular structure, adapted to a mode of 
progression peculiarly their own, dance about on the un- 
sullied bosom of the new-fallen snow. They belong to 
the genus Podiira, and are distinguished by having at 
the extremity of their body two long, stiff bristles, ordi- 
narily bent up under the belly, but which, at the pleasure 
of the insect, fly out straight with great force, and thus 
jerk it into the air, on the principle of a child's toy-frog. 
Other curious species, — two in particular, both belonging 


:1 families, yet both without win 

* See Ci-yptog. Flora, p. 231. f Eep. Br. Assoc, 1840. 


of wingless gnat,* the other something like a flea, but 
really one of the Panorpadce,"^ — I have found numerous 
in similar circumstances, and in no other. 

As a curious incident, not altogether out of place in 
this connexion, though the parallelism of the cases is 
more apparent than real, we may notice the trees which 
Mr Atkinson found growing, under very unusual circum- 
stances, in the valley of the Black Irkout, in Eastern 
Siberia, a romantic gorge, whose precijoitous sides are 
formed of difierent marbles — one white, with deep purple 
spots and small veins, another a rich yellow kind, equal, 
if not superior, to the best Sienna, but wholly untouched 
by man. " We reached," he says, " a part of the ravine 
filled with snow and ice, where large poplars were grow- 
ing, with only their tops above the icy mass ; the 
branches were in full leaf, although the trunks were 
imbedded in the snow and ice to a depth of twenty-five 
feet. I dismounted, examined several, and found that * 
there was a space around the stem, nine inches wide, filled 
with water, the only parts that appeared to be thawing. 
I have often seen flowers penetrating a thin bed of snow, 
but this was the first time I had found trees growing 
under such circumstances." J 

The burning, sandy deserts of Arabia and Africa seem 
at first sight to be utterly without organic life, and doubt- 
less they are the most barren of all regions. But even 
there both animals and vegetables do exist. Several sorts 


* Chionea araneoides. + Borem hyemalis. 

:J. A Icinson's Sihena, p. 595. 


^ *- 



of hard, thorny shrubs are scattered over the dreary waste, 
the chief of which is the Hedijsarum of the Saliara, a 
plant about eighteen inches high, which is green through- 
out the year; it grows absolutely out of the arid sand, 
and is eagerly cropped by the camels of the caravans. 
There are also beetles, which burrow in the sand ; and 
nimble lizards which shine, as they bask in the burninfif 
sun, like burnished brass, and bury themselves on being 
alarmed. The lizards probably live upon the beetles; 
but what the beetles live upon is not so clear. 
. ;The enormous plains of South Africa, called karroos, 
though not so absolutely barren wastes as the Sahara, are 
still great wildernesses of sand, exposed to periodical 
droughts of long duration. These regions are occupied 
by a most singular type of vegetation ; fleshy, distorted, 
shapeless, and often leafless, tribes of euphorbias, stapelias, 
mesembryanthemums, crassulas, aloes, and similar succulent 
plants, maintain their hold of the sandy soil by the weak 
support of a single wiry root, and are fed rather by the 
dews of heaven 'than by the moisture of the soil. Durir 
the rainless months of the dry seasons, these plains are 
scarcely less arid than the sandy deserts of the north ; 
yet even then there are reservoirs beneath the surface. 

Livingstone speaks of a certain plant, named leroshua, 

which is a blessing to the inhabitants of this desert. 

' " We see a small plant with linear leaves, and a stalk not 

thicker than a crow's quill ; on digging down a foot or 

eighteen inches beneath, we come to a tuber, often as 

large as the head of a young child; when the rind 



removed, we find it to be a mass of cellular tissue, filled 
with fluid much like that in a young turnip. Owing to the 
depth beneath the soil at which it is found, it is generally 
deliciously cool and^ refreshing. Another kind, named 
mokuri, is seen in other parts of the country, where long- 
continued heat parches the soil. This plant is a herbaceous 
creeper, and deposits underground a number of tubers, 
some as large as a man's head, at spots in a circle a yard 
or more, horizontally, from the stem. The natives strike 
the ground on the circumference of the circle with stones, 
till, by hearing a difference of sound, they know the water- 
bearing tuber to be beneath. They then dig down a foot 
or so, and find it. 

There are deserts on the Pacific coast of South America 
as horribly barren as any in Africa or Asia, if not so ex- 
tensive. One of these is described by Mr Darwin, who was 
all day riding across it, as a " a complete and utter desert." 

" The road," he says, " was strewed with the bones and 
dried skins of the many beasts of burden which had 
perished on it from fatigue. Excepting the Vultur aura, 
which preys on the carcases, I saw neither bird, quadruped, 
reptile, nor insect. On the coast-mountains, at the height 
of about 2000 feet, where durinoj this season the clouds 
generally hang, a very few Cacti were growing in the clefts 
of rock, and the loose sand was strewed over with a 
lichen, which lies on the surface quite unattached. . This 
plant belongs to the genus Cladonia, and somewhat re- 
sembles the reindeer lichen. In some parts it was in suf- 
ficient quantity to tinge the sand, as seen from a distance, 

Livingstone's Travels^ p. 47. 

> 1 


' \ 



r ■ 

r - 

of a pale yellowisli colour. Further inland, during the 
whole ride of fourteen leagues, I saw only one other vege- 
table' production ; and that was a most minute yellow 
lichen, growing on the bones of the dead mules." * 


-The rugged desolation which characterises the interior 
of the crater of a volcano, even though the fiery torrent 
which formed it be at the time dormant, seems ill-suited 
for the smiling beauty of flowers ; yet such occasionally 
e^st there. 



" Sir Thomas Acland, who ascended to the summit of 
Schneehatten, the lofty volcano of Norway, describes the 
crater to be broken down on the northern side, surrounded 
on the others by perpendicular masses of black rock, 
rising out of, and high above, beds of snow that enveloped 


their bases. The interior sides of the crater descended in 
one vast' sheet of snow to the bottom, where an icy lake 
closed the view, at the depth of 1500 feet from the highest 
■ ridge. " Almost at the top," he says, " and close to the 
snow, which had probably but a few days before covered 


them, were some very delicate and beautiful flowers, in 
their highest bloom, of the Ranunculus glacialis, growing 
most profusely ; nor were they the only inhabitants : 


mosses, lichens, and a variety of small herbaceous plants 
were in the same neighbourhood ; and, lower down, dwarf- 
birch, and a species of osier, formed a pretty kind of 
thicket. The traces of reindeer appeared on the very top- 
most snow." 

■ r 


* Nat. Voyage, chap. xvi. 

*!• MS. letter, quoted in Barrow's Excursions in the North of Europe^ 

p. 359. 


The very dust of the air is found to be peopled with 
living plants and animals, and that where we should least 
have expected to find it so stocked ; nay, where we should 
scarcely have looked for clouds of dust at all, — far out on 
the lone ocean, hundreds of miles from land. In Mr 
Darwin's voyage, he noticed, as he approached the Cape 
Verd Islands, this curious phenomenon : — " Generally the 
atmosphere is hazy ; and this is caused by the falling of 
impalpably fine dust, which was found to have slightly 
injured the astronomical instruments. The morning be- 
fore we anchored at Porto Praya, I collected a little 
packet of this brown-coloured fine dust, which appeared 
to have been filtered from the wind by the gauze of the 
vane at the masthead. Mr Lyell has also given me four 
packets of dust which fell on a vessel a few hundred miles 
northward of these islands. Professor Ehrenberg finds 
that this dust consists, in great part, of infusoria* with 
siliceous shields, and of the siliceous tissue of plants. In 
five little packets which I sent him, he has ascertained no 
less than sixty-seven different organic forms ! The infu- 
soria, with the exception of two marine species, are all 
inhabitants of fresh water. I have found no less than 
fifteen different accounts of dust having fallen on vessels 
when far out in the Atlantic. From the direction of the 
wind whenever it has fallen, and from its having always 
fallen durino; those months when the harmattan u known 
to raise clouds of dust high into the atmosphere, we may 
feel sure that it all comes from Africa. It is, however, a 

* Constitutincr tlie Diatomacece of modern science. 



^ ^ 

very singular fact, that, although Professor Ehrenberg 
knows many species of infusoria jDCCuliar to Africa, he 
finds none of these in the dust which I sent him ; on the 
other ' hand, he finds in it two species which hitherto he 
knows as living only in South America. This dust falls 
in such quantities as to dirty everything on board, and to 


hurt people's eyes ; vessels even have run on shore owing 
to the obscurity of the atmosphere. It has often fallen 
on ships when several hundred, and eveii more than a 
thousand miles from the coast of Africa, and at points 
sixteen hundred miles distant in a north and south direc- 
" tion. ' In some dust which was collected on a vessel three 
"hundred miles from the land, I was much surprised to 


find particles of stone, about the thousandth of an inch 
'Square, mixed with finer matter. After this fact, one 


ineed not be surprised at the diffusion of the far lighter 
and smaller sporules of cryptogamic plants."* 
r In all these situations, in which we have seen organic 
existence maintained, we must admit that there is nothing 
actually hostile to life. The snow, the hot sand, the cal- 
cined lava, the dust, seem ungenial spheres for living 
beings, offer but little encouragement to them, as we 
sliould have su23posed, but are not actually destructive. 
What shall we say, however, to animals disporting them- 
selves, by mjnriads, in brine so strong as to contain two 



■ pounds of salt to the gallon ? A solution so concentrated 
is sufficient in general to destroy all life.-f* Yet, in the 

) * Naturalist's Voyage, cliap. i. 
f Goadby's preservative fluid contains but three-quarters of a pound 

of salts to a gallon of water. 


salt-works at Lymington, in Hampshire, the reservoirs of 
concentrated brine are always peopled by immense num- 
bers of an elegant little animal, quite peculiar to such 
situations, which sport about in all the enjoyment of 
existence. The little creature is a sort of shrimp, and is 
commonly known as the brine shrimp.** It is nearly 
half an inch in length,, and is furnished with eleven pairs 
of leaf-shaped limbs. " There is nothing," says M. Joly, 
" more elegant than the form of this little crustacean ; 
nothing more graceful than its movements. It swims 
almost always on its back, and moves rapidly through 
the element. The feet are in constant motion, and their 
undulations have a softness difficult to describe." Besides 
these animals, the brine is inhabited by incalculable mul- 
titudes of a microscopic animalcule of a crimson hue, on 
which the brine-shrimp feeds, and which impart to its 
translucent body their own roseate colour. 

A similar creature, but of another species,"|* distin- 
guished by a broad crescent- shaped shield over the head, 
inhabits lakes, highly charged with nitre and common 
salt, in North Africa. The animals are so numerous that 
they are caught with muslin nets, and dried in the sun in 
the form of a red paste or cake, which is highly esteemed 
as an article of food, having the flavour of red herring, 

Mr Darwin found, near Buenos Ayres, a shallow lake 
of brine, which in summer is converted into a field of 
snow-white salt. The border of the lake is a fetid, black 

* Artcmia salina. 
t A. Oudneyi. S 



'inud, in wliicli are imbedded large crystals of gypsum, 
• : three inclies long, and of sulphate of soda. " The mud, 

in many places, was thrown up by numbers of some kind 
7 of worm. How surprising is it that any creatures should 

be able to exist in brine, and that they should be crawl- 

i ^ 

ing among crystals of sulphate of soda and lime ! And 
what becomes of these worms when, durins^ the lono; 

b ■ 

summer, the surface is hardened into a solid layer of 
salt?"* Exactly similar lakes, similarly peopled, occur 
in Siberia also.-f" 

" Perhaps even stranger still is the circumstance that 
fishes — vertebrate animals far higher in the organic scale 
than shrimps or worms — can subsist, apparently in health, 
in water sufficiently heated to boil them if dead. Brous- 
' sonet found, by experiments, that several species of fresh- 
water fishes lived many days in water so hot that the 
human hand could not be held in it for a single minute. 
Saussure found living eels in the hot springs of Aix, in 
Savoy, in which the temperature is pretty regularly 113 
deg. of Fahrenheit. But still more extraordinary are 
the facts recorded by Humboldt and Bonpland, who saw 
living fishes, apparently in health and vigour, thrown up 
from the crater of a volcano in South America, with 
water and hot vapour that raised the thermometer to 210 
didg. Fahrenheit, a heat less, by only two degrees, than 
that of boiling water. 

The same accomplished travellers visited hot springs in 


Naturalist's Voyage, chap. iv. 
t Pallas's Travels, 1793 to 1794, pp. 129-134. 



Venezuela, tlie temperature of which was above 194 deg., 
and which boiled e^^s in less than four minutes. The 

vegetation around seemed to rejoice in the heat, being 
unusually luxuriant, the mimosas and fig-trees spreading 
their branches far over the hot water, and actually push- 
ing their roots into it. 

One of the most interesting discoveries of modern 
science is that of a subterranean fauna, all the members 
of which are blind. The transition from the illuminated 
tenants of this upper world to those darkened subjects of 
Pluto is indeed facilitated by certain intermediate condi- 
tions. Such is the guacharo, or fruit-eating nightjar, found 
by Humboldt inhabiting, in immense hosts, a deep, sepul- 
chral cavern in South America, shut out far from the re- 
motest ray of light, coming forth under the cover of night, 
and invested with superstitious terrors by the natives. 
Such, too, is the aspalax, or mole of eastern Europe, which 
habitually lives under ground ; and such is the proteus, 
a strange sort of salamander found in the lakes of im- 

mense caverns in Illyria. They are believed to come 
from some great central, inaccessible reservoir, where no 
ray of light has ever penetrated, and whence occasional 
floods may have forced the individuals that have been 

I know not what the condition of the eye may be in 
the guacharo, but in the mammal and reptile, it exists 
only in the most rudimentary condition, completely covered 
by the integuments. , , , 

* See Davy's Consolations in Travel. 



> ■ 



*, Very recently, however, investigations in various parts 
of the world have revealed the curious circumstance of 
somewhat extensive series of animals inhabiting vast 
and gloomy caves and deep wells, and perfectly deprived 
even of the vestiges of eyes. Enormous caves in North 


America, some of which are ten miles in length, and 
other vast and ramified grottoes in Central Europe, have 
yielded the chief of these ; but even in this country we 

^ T 

possess at least four species of minute shrimps,* three 
of which are absolutely blind, and the fourth (though it 
has a yellow speck in the place of an eye) probably so. 
All these have been obtained from pumps and wells in 
the southern counties of England, at a depth of thirty or 
forty feet from the surface of the earth. 
* The crustacean Calocaris, already mentioned as in- 
habiting the amazing depth of one hundred and eighty 
fathoms, appears to be blind, for though eyes are present, 
their surface is perfectly smooth and destitute of facetted 
cornese, and white, shewing the absence of colouring pig- 
ment. Vision can scarcely exist with such a structure, 
and this is in keeping with the habits of the animal ; for 
not only would the vast superincumbent body of water 
absorb all the rays of light, and make its sphere of being 
totally dark, but, in addition to this, it is of fossorial 
habits, burrowing into the sandy mud at the bottom. -f- 
The Mammoth Cave in Kentucky consists of innumer- 


Belonging to the genera Niphargus and Crangonyz. (See Nat Hist 

Review, 1859 ; Pr. Soc, p. 164). 
+ Bell's Brit. Crust., p. 236. 



able subterranean galleries in the limestone formation, 


some of which are of great extent. The temperature is 
constant throughout the year — 59 deg. Fahr. A darkness, 
unrelieved by the least glimmer of light, prevails. Ani- 
mals of various races inhabit these caves, all completely 
blind ; for though some have rudimentary eyes, they ap- 
pear useless for purposes of vision. Among these are two 
kinds of bats, two rats, (one found at a distance of seven 
miles from the entrance,) moles, fishes, spiders, beetles, 
Crustacea, and several kinds of infusoria 

In 1845, three caves near Adelsburg and one near 
Trieste were examined by Professor Schiodte. Koch, 
Schmidt, and others had already announced the existence 
in these caves of a blind fauna, besides the proteus. An 
Oniscus, a beetle of the family Staphylinidce, and two 
belonging to the Garahidce, were found to be either totally 
destitute of eyes, or to have these organs reduced to rudi- 
mentary specks. Schiodte added to these two new species 
of SilphadcB, a species of spring-tail, two remarkable 
spiders, each constituting a new genus, and a crustacean. -f- 
Still later, Schmidt has discovered two more beetles in 
these caves, inhabiting the deepest recesses, and described 
as perfectly eyeless, yet retreating quickly from the light 


of the explorers' torches into clefts of the rock ; a curious 
circumstance, which would seem to indicate a certain 
sensibility to the stimulus of light, j; Indeed, in several 

* Trans, Roy. Soc. Edinb., Dec. 1853. 
f Schiodte's Spec. Faun. Suhta^. 
X Lalhachei' Zeituvg, Augitst 1852. 

^ ^ 






of t"he vertebrate creatures of the Kentucky cave, the 
optic nerve is found to exist, though the eyes are 


"' -^ Of the true relations of these remarkable beinixs with 
those which inhabit the sunny world without, there are 

^ -^ M ^ - * /^ . 

various opinions. Some have thought it possible that 

'they are the descendants of unfortunate individuals that, 

in unknown ages past, wandered into the caves, and were 

r I 

tinable to find their way out again ; the total absence of 
light, and the consequent disuse of the visual organs, in- 
ducing an obliteration of the organs themselves, or at least 

I ''■•'■' ■ 

of the function. Others suppose that the animals were 
at the first assigned to such situations, and fitted for them 


at their creation. Others again, among whom may be 
* 'reckoned the late Mr Kirby, in his "Bridgewater Treatise," 
contend that they form no portion of the fauna now in 


-J - 

existence on the surface of the earth, but belons: to a 
"Creation as distinct as we may sujjpose that of Venus or 
'Jupiter to be. The data, however, scarcely warrant such 

a conclusion as this. 

Mr Charles Darwin has lately alluded to these singular 
' facts in confirmation of his theory of the origin of Sjoecies 


by means of natural selection, or the preservation of fa- 

voured races in the struo^le for life. He takes the first- 


named view, that in the subterranean animals the organs 


of sight have become (more or less completely) absorbed, 
in successive generations, by disuse of the function. " In 
some of the crabs the foot-stalk remains, though the eye 
is gone ; the stand for the telescope is there, though the 



telescope with its glasses has been lost. As it is difficult 
to imagine that eyes, though useless, could be in any way 
injurious to animals living in darkness, I attribute their 
loss wholly to disuse. In one of the blind ' animals, 
namely, the cave-rat, the eyes are of immense size ; and 
Professor Silliman thoudit that it regained, after livino; 


some days in the light, some slight power of vision. ' lii 
the same manner as, in Madeira, the wings of some of 
the insects have been enlarojed, and the win,gs of others 

have been reduced, by natural selection aided by use and 
disuse, so in the case of the cave-rat, natural selection 

h + 

seems to have struggled with the. loss of light and to have 
increased the size of the eyes ; whereas, with all the other 
inhabitants of the caves, disuse by itself seems to 
done its work. 

" .... On my view, we must suppose that American 
animals, having ordinary powers of vision, slowly migrated 
by successive generations from the outer world into the 


deeper and deeper recesses of the Kentucky caves, as did 
European animals into the caves of Europe. We have 
some evidence of this gradation of habit ; for, as Schiodte 
remarks, ' animals not far remote from ordinary 
prepare the transition from light to darkness. Next 

-' * r "T 

follow those that are constructed for twilight ; and, last 
of all, those destined for total darkness. By the time 
that an animal has reached, after numberless generations, 
the^ deepest recesses, disuse will on this view have more 


or less perfectly obliterated its eyes, and natural selection 


will often have efifected other changes, such as an increase 

* ^ 




in the length of the antennae or palpi, as a compensation 

k + 

for blindness. 

. . i . Far from feeling any surprise that some of the 
cave-animals should be very anomalous^ as Ac^assiz has 

i-^4' « V ^ 4 . ! ^'^K 

remarked in regard to the blind fish, the Amhlyopsis, and 
as is the case with the blind Proteus with reference to the 



reptiles of Europe, I am only surprised that more wrecks 
of ancient life have not been preserved, owing to the less 
severe competition to which the inhabitants of these dark 
abodes will probably have been exposed. 
< , Lone and barren rocks rising abruptly out of the soli- 


tarj ocean often teem with animal life to an amazing 
extent, where the navigator might reasonably have looked 
for utter silence and desolation. For these are the resort 

-V \ 

of millions of oceanic birds, affording to these, whose 
proper home is on the wide and shoreless sea, the spots of 

r — 

solid matter which they require for the laying of their 


eggs and the hatching of their young. This brief occu- 
pation, lasting only for a few weeks in the year, appears 
to be the only link which connects these pelagic free- 

\** ' -r,*^; 

bppters with the earth. Pelicans, gannets, boobies, cor- 
morants, frigate-birds, tropic-birds, albatrosses, fulmars, 
skuas, petrels, gulls, terns, puffins, and multitudes of other 
tribes thronsr to such bare rocks in the season, in count- 

less hosts, making the desolation horridly alive. Such a 

* ^' ^^ % P' 137. I am very far, indeed, from accepting Mr Dar- 
win's theory to the' extent to which he pushes it/ completely tram- 
plirig on Revelation as it does ; but I think there L3 a 7neasure of truth 
in it. ' 

* -A 

-■ ri 




scene as ensues when man int^^udes on it has been vividly 
depicted by Le Vaillant. " All of a sudden, there arose 
from the whole surface of the island an impenetrable 
cloud, which formed, at the distance of forty feet above our 

heads, an immense canopy, or rather a sky, composed of 
birds of every species, and of all colours : cormorants, 
sea-gulls, sea-swallows, pelicans, and I believe, the whole 
winged tribe of that part of Africa, were here assembled. 
All their voices, mingled together, and modified accord- 
ing to their different kinds, formed such a horrid music, 

was every moment obliged to cover my head to 

that I 


a little relief to 

my ears. 

The alarm which we 


Spread was so much the more general among those in- 
numerable legions of birds, as we principally disturbed the 
females which were then sitting. They had nests, eggs, 
and young to defend. They were like furious harpies let 
loose against us, and their cries rendered us almost deaf. 
They often flew so near us, that they flapped their wings 
in our faces, and though we fired our pieces repeatedly, ' 
we were not able to friofhten them : it seemed almost im- 

possible to disperse this cloud." ■■ ,: 

* "■ 

How utterly desolate such insular rocks are is well 
illustrated by what Mr Darwin says of St Paul's cnister,- - 
situated in the midst of the Atlantic, under the equator.. 
At a distance these rocks appear of a brilliant white 
colour, partly owing to the dung of the innumerable sea- 



fowl, and partly to a coating of a hard, glossy substance -^ 
with a pearly lustre, which is intimately united to' the 

surface of the stone. It seems to be a sort of inflores- 

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cence of the phosphate of lime, obtained by the solution 
of the bird-ordure in the elements, which takes on foliated 
forms imitative of lichens or nullipores. 

There is not a vesti<^e of vegetable life here, but of 

animals there are not a few. The booby and the noddy 
sit on the bare rock in startling tameness, apparently 
having less intellect than the far inferior races around 
them. " By the side of many of the nests a small flying- 
fish was placed, which, I suppose, had been brought by 
the male bird for its partner. It was amusing to watch 
how quickly a large and active crab, (Grapsus,) which 
inhabits the crevices of the rock, stole the fish from the 
side of the nest, as soon as we had disturbed the parent 
birds. Sir W. Symonds, one of the few persons who 
have landed here, informs me that he saw the crabs 
fragging even the young birds out of their nests, and 
devouring them. Not a single plant, not even a lichen, 
grows on this islet ; yet it is inhabited by several insects 
and spiders. The following 'list completes, I believe, the 
terrestrial fauna : — A fly (fllfersid) living on the booby, 
and a tick which must have come here as a parasite on 
the birds ; a small brown moth, belonging to a genus 
that feeds on feathers ; a beetle, (Quedius,) and a wood- 
louse from beneath the dung ; and, lastly, numerous 
spiders, which I suppose prey on these small attendants 
and scavengers of the waterfowl. The often-repeated 
description of the stately palm, and other noble tropical 
plants, then birds, and lastly man, taking possession of 
the coral islets as soon as formed, in the Pacific, is pro 


;; ^ 

bably not quite correct ; I fear it destroys the poetry of 
this story, that feather- and dirt-feeding, and parasitic in- 
sects and spiders should be the first inhabitants of newly- 
formed oceanic land. 

The occurrence, far out on the boundless sea, of crea- 
tures which we habitually associate with the land, is a 
phenomenon which interests even those whq are little 
observant of natural history. Visits of land-birds to 
ships have often been noticed by voyagers, and that not 
of those species only which are known to make long 
transmarine miojrations, but of small and feeble-winojed 
races, such as finches and warblers. It is much more 
remarkable, however, to see insects under such circum- 
stances ; yet examples of this are not wanting. Mr 
Darwin expresses his surprise at finding a considerable 
number of beetles, alive and apparently little injured, 
swimming in the open sea, seventeen miles off" Cape 
Corrientes, at the mouth of the La Plata. These may. 
have been carried down by a river, especially as several 
of them were water-beetles ; but this will not account for 
aerial insects taking a sea voyage. The same naturalist 

was surrounded by flocks of butterflies of several kinds, 

■m -^ 


(chiefly of the genus Colias,) ten miles ofl* the same coast. 
They were in countless myriads, so that the seamen cried 
that it was " snowing butterflies," extendinpj as far as the 


eye could range ; and, even with a telescope, it was not 
possible to see a space free from butterflies. The day 
had been fine and calm, and so had the day before ; so that 


* Natwralisfs Voy., chap. L , 


the supposition that the insects had been involuntarily 
blown off the land was inadmissible.* 

But in these cases the land was not beyond the range 
of nioderate flight. What shall we say to jaunts of five 
hundred or a thousand miles performed by these filmy- 
winged and delicate creatures ? Mr Davis has recorded -f- 
that a large dragon-fly, of the genus jEshna, flew on 


board the ship in which he was sailing, on the 11th of 
December 1837, when out at sea, the nearest land being 


the coast of Africa, which was distant five hundred 
miles. - " ■ 

'« 4 

I -f 

'The late Mr Newport, in his Presidential Address to 
the Entomological Society of London, for the year 1 845, 
thus alluded to two other instances of the same interest- 


ing phenomenon : — " Mr Saunders exhibited, at our De- 
cember meeting, a specimen of ^shna, that was taken at 
sea by our corresponding member, Mr Stephenson, in his; 
voyage from this country to New Zealand, last year. 
This insect is a recognised African species, and was 
captured on the Atlantic, more than six hundred miles in> 
a' direct line from land. In all probability it had been' 
driven across the ocean by the trade winds, which blow 
continuously at that season of the year in a direction 
oblique to the course of the ship that was conveying Mr 
Stephenson outwards. The other instance that has just 
come to niy knowledge is mentioned in a letter f^om Mr 
Dyson to Mr Cuming. Mr Dyson states, that while at sea, 
in October last, when about six hundred miles from the 

* iVat. Voy., cliap. viiL - . , ^ + Entom. Mag., v. p. 2o\. 


Gape de Verd Islands, and twelve hundred from Guada- 
loupe, he observed a large butterfly, apparently of the 
genus Morpho, (?)* flying round the ship, but he could not 
succeed in capturing it. These are facts related by entomo- 
logists who could not have mistaken the objects observed, 
and consequently they are entitled to full credit. They 
are full of interest in relation to a subject of physiological 
discussion, the power of flight supposed to be possessed 
by these, our little favourites, and the speed with which 
they are conveyed across the ocean, whether by an actual 
expenditure of muscular energy, or whether carried by the 
force of the wind alone. My own opinion certainly is, 
that the amount of muscular power exerted during flight 
is trifling, compared with what we have usually supposed 
it to be, and that in these instances the insects have been 
greatly aided in their progress by the wind. The speed 
at which they must have traversed the ocean seems to 
confirm this view ; as it is well known that the jEshna 
will not live more than a few days, if unable to obtain its 

living food. 


The Atlantic being the great highway of nations, we 

^ ■ 

have more abundant observations on this than on other 
oceans, but similar phenomena exist elsewhere. Hum- 
boldt mentions having seen, in the Pacific, at a vast dis- 

* If the butterfly was indeed a Morpho^ — and Mr Dyson, who was an 
experienced lepidopterist, could scarcely have been deceived about so 
remarkable a butterfly, — it could have come neither from the Cape de 
Verd Isles nor the Antilles, but from the continent of South America, 
to which the genus Morpho is limited. The nearest part of that con- 

H . F ■ 

tinent is not less than one thousand five hundred miles from the posi- 
tion of the observer. 





tance from the coast, large- winged Lepidoptera (butter- 
flies) fall on the deck of the ship. 

Ei^ually striking is the presence of winged insects at 
very lofty elevations. Saussure found butterflies at the 
summit of Mont Blanc, and Ramond observed them in 


the. solitudes around that of Mont Perdu. Captain 
Fremont saw honey-bees at the top of the loftiest peak 
of the Rocky Mountains in North America, the height of 


which is 13,568 feet. Dr Hooker, in the Himalaya range, 
found insects plentiful at 17,000 feet; butterflies of the 

'- * J 

genera Golias, Hipparchia, Melitcea, and Polyommatus, 
besides beetles, and erreat flies. Humboldt saw butterflies 
among perpetual snow at yet loftier elevations in the 
Aiides of Peru, but conjectured that they had been 
carried thither involuntarily by ascending currents of air. 

I " ^- 

And the same great philosopher, when ascending Chim- 


borazo, in June 1802, with Bonpland and Montufar, found 
winged flies (Diptera) buzzing around him at the height 
of 18,225 feet : while a little below this elevation Bon- 

^ '. -1 

pland saw yellow butterflies flying over the ground. 
I shall close this category with two examples of animal 


life in unwonted situations, less scientifically curious it 
may be than those already adduced, but more amusing. 
That fishes should fly in the air is strange enough, but we 
should scarcely expect that they would verify their gene- 
ric name * by going to bed out of water. Yet Kotzehue 
was favoured with such an unexpected bedfellow : 
' " The nights being warm," observes the voyager, " we 



, * Exoco?tus, the name of the flying-fish, from e^co, out, and Koiraoh 

to sleep. The Greeks fancied that the fish left the water to sleep. 

- * 



always sleep on deck, to recover ourselves from the heat of 
the day, a circumstance which occasioned me one night 
a very unexpected visit. I was awakened by the con- 
stant motion of a very cold animal at my side, which, 


when it writhed in' my hand, I first took to be a lizard. 

This, I thought, might 


s have been brought on 

board at Chili, with the wood. But, on examining, I 
found that it was a flying-fish that I had in my hands, 
and I am probably the first that has caught such a one 
in bed."* 

The other incident occurred nearer home. 

In the tremendous gale of the 25th October, 1859, 
which did so much damage on the coast of South Devon, 
a curious incident occurred to a gentleman whose house 
was situated close to the water-side. He was sitting with 
his parlour window open, when an enormous green wave 
came curling towards the house, and discharged its force 
full against the window. There was no time to shut the 
window ; but, retreating as fast as he could, he pulled 
the door of the room after him, in order to keep the sea 
as far as practicable from the rest of the house. After 
some time he returned to see what amount of mischief 
was done, and, entering the room, found the floor covered 
with flapping and jumping fishes. The wave had brought 
forward a shoal of whiting, and had deposited them on 

the good man 


pet ; where they tossed, much to his 

amusement and their own chagrin 

fish out of water 



*•■ ' 

Voyage, i. p. 145. 

^ * 


* i 





. I 



-.^'. i 

^ ^ 

. J 

t * 




h ^ 




\ # 

Natural "history affords not a few instructive examples 



What great effects from little causes flow ; " 

and these are well worthy of our study, as presenting 
to "us one peculiar aspect of the wisdom of God, with 
whom nothing is great, nothing small. Some of the 
mightiest operations in nature are the results of pro- 
cesses, and the works of agents, apparently feeble and 
wholly inadequate to produce them ; and our wonder is 
excited when we are able intelligently to trace them to 
their causes. I propose, therefore, to devote this chapter 
io the consideration of a few of these, which come more 

immediately within the province of the naturalist. 


may be classed, according to the nature of their operations, 
as either constructive or destructive. ■ 


How many a poetic dream is associated with the sunny 
isles of the Pacific ! What a halo of romance encircles 
all our ideas of those mirror-like lagoons in the midst of 
the great ocean-waves, those long, low reefs just emerging 
from the sea, on which the cocoa-nut palm is springing 
from the very water's edge! Beautiful they are in our 
imagination, as we have realised the pictures drawn 


Oook, and Kotzebue, and Beechey, by Stewart and Ellis, 
Darwin and Clieever. But, when we know that these 


thousand isles, these endless reefs, these huge barriers 
that curb the furious ocean, are produced by tiny, soft- 
bodied sea-anemones, by atoms of pulp, sluggish and 
seemingly helpless morsels of animated jelly, individually 
no bigger than the smallest flower that nestles in the 
hedge-bank — our wonder, instead of being dispersed by 
our philosophy, is deepened and incomparably aug- 
mented by it. " We feel surprise when travellers tell us 
of the vast dimensions of the Pyramids, but how utterly 
insignificant are the greatest of these when compared to 
these mountains of stone accumulated by the agency of 
various minute and tender animals ! This is a wonder 
which does not at first strike the eye of the body, but, 
after reflection, the eye of reason/' * 

The researches of the eminent naturalist whose words 
I have just quoted, have shewn us that the coral polype 
does not build from the fathomless depths of sea which 
immediately surround these reefs and islands. He seems 
to imply, indeed, that the coral animals cannot exist at a 
greater depth than thirty fathoms ; but, whatever may 
be the case in tropical seas, we have already seen that 
living corals exist and build compound polypidoms at far 
greater depths in our northern latitudes. Assuming, 
however, that no reef is commenced deeper than thirty 
fathoms, and that below that depth the building instinct 
is not carried on, the only hypothesis which meets all the 
exigencies presented by the actual phenomena of fring- 

* Dai-win, Nat Voy., chap. xx. 



to reefs, encircllnf]: or barrier reefs, and atolls or riilo: 

- I 

reefs, is that j^ropouncled and ably maintained by Darwin, 


that the whole area of the Pacific is slowly sinking; that 
all the reef. s and islands are the summits of former monn- 
tains ; that all the coral structures were originally attached 
to the land at a shallow depth, and that, to whatever depth 
below, they now extend, it is only in a dead condition^ 
and has been effected by the subsidence of the supporting 
land carrying the coral with it ; while the successive gene- 
rations of the living polypes, ever working upwards on the 
old dead foundation, have maintained a living coral struc- 
ture near the surface, and that nearly in the same outline 
and form as the orio;inal foundation. • ■ 

', -'It does not accord with my purpose to enter into the 
' details of this beautiful theory, but rather to present my 


readers with some vivid pictures of the wonderful Ptruo- 
tures themselves, as sketched by those who have seen 
them.: In coasting along a tropical reef, the extrenie 
clearness of the water permits the coral shrubs and groves 
to be distinctly seen, which rise from the blue transparent 
depths. They take various forms — some massive, with 
meandering channels over the rounded surface; some 
forming honey-combed blocks formed by the union of- 


thin plates at various angles; many growing like trees or* 
shrubs with Jeafless branches, more or less ramified, and 

■- I 

with the twigs more or less slender and pointed, or thick 
and rounded. Under water, the whole surface is covered 
with a layer of jelly-like flesh, of many brilliant colours- 
formed by. the crowding together of the myriad tiny 


polypes, which protrude their slender tentacles and ex.- 


4 r 

panding disks from the individual cells. Even when 
severed, the branches are exquisitely beautiful so long 
as they retain the faint purple halo that plays around 
their ivory tips, but which soon vanishes. A rude touch 


beneath the water will cause the lovely tints — ^brilliant 
crimson, orange, and emerald green — to disappear, by 
the withdrawal of the alarmed polypes ; but they soon 
protrude again, and expand in their original loveliness. 

The interest with which these gardens are contemplated 
is enhanced by the multitude of strange creatures which 
crawl over and through the shrubs. Fishes of the most 
gorgeous hues, elegant shells, with clouded and spotted 
animals carrying them, nimble prawns of crimson and 
yellow, long gliding green worms, and purple sea-urchins, 
with enormous spines, here find their home and live at 
ease beneath the unclouded sun. 

The dimensions attained by the labours of the minute 
workmen are the most astonishing part of the spectacle. 
Some individual specimens of Porites, in the rock of 
the inner reef of Tongatabu, are twenty-five feet in dia- 
meter ; and Astreas and Meandrinas, both there and in 
the Fejees, measure twelve to fifteen feet. The platform 
resembles a Cyclopean pavement, except that the cement- 
ing material between the huge masses is more solid than 
any work of art could be. 

" Sometimes the barrier reef recedes from the shore, 
and forms wide channels or inland seas, where ships find 
ample room and depth of water, exposed, however, to the 
.danger of hidden reefs. The reef on the north-east coast 




of New Holland and New Caledonia extends four hundred 
miles, at a distance varying from thirty to sixty miles 
from shore, and having as many fathoms of depth in the 
channel. West of the large Pejee Islands the channel is 
in some parts twenty-five miles wide, and twelve to forty 
fathoms in depth. The sloop-of-war Peacock sailed along 
the west coast of both Viti Lebu and Vanua Lebu, within 
the inner reefs, a distance exceeding two hundred miles. 
., "A barrier reef, inclosing a lagoon, is the general form- 
ation of the coral islands, though there are some of 
small size in which the lagoon is wanting. These are 
found in all stages of development : in some the reef is 
narrow and broken, forming a succession of narrow islets 
with openings into the lagoon ; in others there only 
remains a depression of surface in the centre to indicate 
where the lagoon originally was.* The most beautiful are 
those where the lagoon is completely inclosed, and rests 
within, a quiet lake. Maraki, one of the Kingsmill 
group, is one of the prettiest coral islands of the Pacific. 
The line of vegetation is unbroken, and, seen from the 
mast-head, it lies like a garland thrown upon the waters. 
"When first seen from the deck of a vessel, only a 
series of dark points is descried, just above the horizon. 
Shortly after, the points enlarge into the plumed to2DS of 
cocoa-nut trees, and a line of green, interrupted at intervals, 
is traced along the water's surface. Approaching still 
nearer, the lake and its belt of verdure are spread out 
before the eye, and a scene of more interest can scarce 

♦ This does not agree with Darwin's theory of subsidence. 



be imagined. The surf, beating loud and heavy along the 
margin of the reef, presents a strange contrast to the 


prospect beyond — the white coral beach, the massy foliage 
of the grove, and the embosomed lake, with its tiny islets. 
The colour of the lagoon water is often as blue as the 
ocean, although but fifteen or twenty fathoms deep ; yet 
shades of green and yellow are intermingled, where patches 
of sand or coral knolls are near the surface, and the green 
is a delicate apple shade, quite unlike the usual muddy 
tint of shallow waters. 

" These garlands of verdure seem to stand on the brims 
of cups, whose bases root in unfathomable depth. Seven 
miles east of Clermont Tonnere, the lead ran out to eleven 
hundred and forty -five fathoms, (six thousand eight 
hundred and seventy feet) without reaching bottom. 
Within three-quarters of a mile of the southern point of 
this island, the lead had another throw, and, after running 
out for a while, brought up for an instant at three hundred 
and fifty fathoms, and then dropped off* again and descended 
to six hundred fathoms without reaching bottom. The 
lagoons are generally shallow, though in the larger islands 
soundings gave twenty to thirty-five, and even fifty and 
sixty fathoms.'' 

The rate at which coral structures are formed is an 
interesting subject of inquiry, and various opinions have 
been formed on the point, some affirming that no percep- 
tible increase takes place in several years, others that the 
process is so rapid, that the Pacific is fast filling up. 
Darwin's theory of subsidence negatives this conclusion, 



Cheever's Sandmch Islands^ p. 152. 


independently of the ratio of growth. There are facts 
,on record, however, which imply that, in certain circum- 
stances, the process is rapid. A channel that had been 
dug through the reef of Keeling Atoll for the passage 
of a schooner, that had been built on the island, from the 
lagoon into the sea, was found ten years afterwards to be 
almost choked up with living coral. An interesting 


experiment was tried at Madagascar, by securing several 
masses of living coral by stakes three feet below the sur- 
face. Seven months afterwards they were found nearly 


reaching to the surface, firmly cemented to the rock, 
and extended laterally several feet ; a remarkably rapid 

growth ! 

An ingenious inquiry has been started, whether the 


coral polypes may not yet be employed by man for the 
construction of sea-walls and reefs, in places within or 
near the tropics, where they are needed. Professor 
Agassiz has shewn that it is not difficult to obtain living 
specimens of the zoophyte, and to preserve them, so as to 
study at leisure their habits and motions. Why, then, 
it has been asked, as we employ the silk-worm, and 
furnish it with food and material to spin for us our silks, 
and as we plant and form beds of oysters in favourable 
locations, where we please, may we not also employ the 
agency of the coral lithophyte, to lay the foundations, for 
instance, of a lighthouse, or to form a breakwater where 
one is needed? Such a practical result is by no means 
improbable, from the minute and scientific observations 
now making upon these busy little builders of the deep.* 

* Clieevers Sandwich Islands^ Appx., p. 310. 



Let us look now at another class of labourers by wliora 
mighty deeds are performed, though the performers them- 
selves are so inconceivably minute, that to say they bear 
the same relation to the coral polype that a mouse does to 
an elephant, would be greatly to overrate their dimensions. 
They are, in fact, invisible to the sharpest sight, except 
when a,G^2:ref]:ated together. I refer to the Diatomacece. 

o"^ — o 

Of late years the attention of microscopic observers 
has been largely and increasingly occupied by a tribe of 
organic beings which are found to exist in all parts of 
the world, in fresh and salt waters chiefly, and present a 
great variety of species as well as of form and markings. 
They consist of a glassy shell, formed of flint, inclosing a 
soft coloured substance, generally of a golden yellow or 
brown hue. This is called the endochrome, and the shell 
is called the frustule. The latter has a determinate form, 
which often assumes extraordinary elegance, and is usually 
marked with series of specks, which are either knobs or 
pits, arranged in the most varied and exquisite patterns. 
They may exist either as isolated forms, or, more com- 
monly, as united into long chains, or other connected 
figures. These are called Diatoms. They have spontan- 
eous movements, and hence they were considered, when 
first discovered, to be animals ; but the opinion now 
generally prevails, that they are plants of a very low 

The influence of these tiny atoms upon this world in 
which we live is almost beyond belief. *• The whole 

J ^^ 

bottom of the ocean," observes Dr Barclay Montgomery, 
** seems to be in a great measure made up of these bodies. 



Sir John Eoss and other Arctic explorers speak of a large 
bank called the Victoria Barrier, 400 miles long, and 120 
miles wide, composed almost entirely of infusoria. Dur- 
ing the last week I was engaged in examining a sounding 
from the bottom of the ocean at the depth of 2000 
fathoms, on the exact spot where the Atlantic telegraph 
unfortunately gave way; although the quantity was 
minute, still I discovered a great number of interesting 
forms. What is known as Tripoli powder in the arts 
consists almost entirely of fossil deposits of the siliceous 
coats of diatoms, which from their hardness form an 
excellent means of polishing metals ; these fossil deposits 
are very numerous and in great quantity in different parts 
of the world. The town of Richmond, in the United 


States, is built upon a stratum of these bodies twenty feet 
in thickness ; in California and America generally, in 
Bohemia, throughout Europe and Africa, and even in our 
own country, we find similar deposits, varying of course 

in the different species present I have been 

enabled to examine some of the curious raised fossil beach 
near Copiapo in Chili, which is gradually forming into 
stone. Though this beach is one mile from the present 
shore, and 180 feet above the level of the sea, yet I have 
found in it diatopis of the same species as those that 



occur on the shore at the present day ; the diatoms are 
also found in a fossil state in peat, coal, bog iron-ore, 
flint, and the chalk formation. Thus, in a geological view, 
though individually invisible, yet numerically they per- 
form a most important part in the crust of the earth 




a part more important than all the mighty monsters that 

lived in ages past What purpose do these bodies 

serve ? It is highly possible that they form, in a great 
measure, the food . of all the minor aquatic animals more 


highly organised than themselves ; I have often found, on 
examining shrimps, that their stomachs, which are situated 
behind the eyes, are entirely filled with diatoms. That 
the siliceous shell passes through nearly intact, there can 
be no doubt, but it is certain that the internal structure, 
the endochrome, may be digested and form the nutritive 
portion ; in this view I am borne out by referring to 
guano — a most prolific source of fossil diatoms. Here 
we find abundance of siliceous shells, in fact their presence 
or absence is now the test of the genuineness of the 
article; — these, in past ages, must have been consumed 
by small m.arine animals, these again consumed by fish, 
and these in their turn by birds : in guano I have noticed 
the proportion of diatoms to be in some specimens nearly 
1 in 500 parts. A correspondent from Callao, writing to 
the Illustrated London News, on the Cincha guano 
islands, says the export of guano from the islands has 
increased considerably during the last ten years ; between 
300,000 tons and 400,000 tons are the annual amount at 
present : here, in a very moderate calculation, from one 
spot alone, we have the annual reinoval of 500 tons of 


The agency of these mighty but minute forms has been 
still further developed in some researches of great interest 

* JRejyort of Cornwall Polyt. Soc. for 1857. 

' * 


I. V 


■ ^r 

wliich have been very recently published by Dr Wallich. 


He has ascertained that they exist in a free, swimming 
condition, in various regions of the ocean, and at various 
depths from the surface downward ; that their multitude 
is incalculable ; and that they afford sustenance to im- 
mense numbers of molluscous and crustaceous animals, 
which in their turn constitute the food of the most gigan- 
tic creatures of the deep. Dr Joseph D. Hooker had no- 
ticed the vast profusion of Diatomacece in the Antarctic 
Sea; and he was struck by the conspicuous appearance 
presented by their masses imbedded in the substance of 
the ice, or washed up on its surface by the action of the 


Dr Wallich found the surface of the Bay of Bengal and 
the Indian Ocean to be crowded with masses of minute 


life, forming yellow streaks, flakes, and tufts, intermixed 
with glistening points, which, when examined, proved to 


be recognisable forms of the organisms in question. The 
mighty scale on which the Diatomacece really exist, did 
not become manifest, however, until he reached the At- 
lantic, between the Cape and St Helena.* 

• " It was here that, for many degrees, and in bright, 
breezy weather, the ship passed through vast layers of 
sea-water so thronged with the bodies of a species of 
Salpa (S. muc7'onata) as to present the consistence of a 
jelly. What their vertical limits were, it was impossible 
to discover, owing to the speed at which the ship was 


See Annals Nat Hist for January 1860; and Quarterly Journ. MusTm 

Sci. for January 1860. 




moving. They appeared to extend deep, however, and in 
all probability, were of a similar character to the aggre- 
gations of what is called whale-food in the higher lati- 
tudes. Each of these Salpce measured about half an inch 


th ; but so close was their aggregation, that, by a 
sudden plunge of an iron-rimmed towing-net, half the 
cubic contents, from which all water had percolated, 
generally consisted of nothing but one thick gelatinous 
pulp. Each individual presented a minute yellow diges- 
tive cavity, of the size of a millet-seed, which contained 
Diatomace^e, Foraminifera, and other organic particles. 

" If we take into account the numbers of Diatomaceee 
and Foraminifera that must exist in order to afford even 
a small integral proportion of the diet of these creatures, 
the vast renewal of supply that must be perpetually going 
on, and the equally vast multitude of these Diatom-con- 
sumers that yield, in their turn, a source of food to the 
gigantic Cetaceans and other large creatures of the sea, 
it becomes possible, in some measure, at least, to form an 
estimate of the manner in which the deep-sea deposits 
become accumulated. 

The same observer has, with great ingenuity, applied 
these facts to the solution of that much-vexed question, 
the oriojin of the masses of flint that are found in the 


chalk. Diatoms are found in great numbers in these 
nodules, but tlie difficulty was, how to account for their 

aggregation in these irregular masses. This is solved by 


the hypothesis that they are the excrement of whales, 
the insoluble remains of the Diatoms, originally devoured 




by the Molluscs, which in their turn found a grave in the 


stomach of the Cetacean. *' "We find that the siliceous 
particles of the Biatomacece, Polycistina, Acanthometrce, 
and Sponges, exist not only in a state of the utmost jjurity, 


that they occur precisely in that state of minute sub- 
division which favours the solvent or aggregative j)rocess 

are irathered 

in an eminent deg 

We see that they 

L , 

together by the Salpse, in the first instance, from the ele- 
ment in which they live, and that they are freed of all, 
or nearly all, their soft portions, by the action of the di- 
gestive cavities of these creatures. We find that the Salpge 
again, in inconceivably vast numbers, afford almost the 

entire food of the largest orders of Cetaceans ; and I there- 

fore think we are able to infer, with certainty, that, in 
the complex stomachs and intestines of the latter, the 
further process of aggregation of siliceous particles goes 
on upon a gigantic scale, aided by the presence of the 
alkalies, and that the ao-o^reo^ated masses beins^ voided at 
intervals, slowly subside, without interruption, to the bed 

of the ocean. 


Darwin records having seen clustered objects in the 
sea near Keeling Atoll, whicb he does not name, but 

given must have been 

which from 

the figures he has 

Diatoms. But all the streaks and bands of colour seen on 


the ocean are not attributable to plants : some of them 
are certainly of an animal nature. The following pheno- 
menon was noticed by the observer last named on the coast 
• of Chili. The vessel passed througb broad bands of red- 
- dish water, which when examined microscopically swarmed 


> ■ 



* f 

with minute active animalcules, darting about, and often 
exploding. They swam by the aid of a ring of vibratory 
cilia, which suggests the thought of the larvae of some 
Annelid. They were exceedingly minute, so as to be quite 
invisible to the naked eye, being not more than one thou- 


sandth of an inch in length. Their numbers were infinite, 
for the smallest drop of water which could be removed 
contained very many. Yet in one day, they passed 
through two spaces of water thus stained, one of which 
alone must have extended over several square miles. 
How utterly inconceivable, then, must have been the mul- 
titude of these minute creatures ! 

Other navigators have noticed broad expanses of the 
ocean tinsfed with colour, well defined ; as the red water 


seen by M. Lesson off Lima., and that which in the vicinity 
of California has been called the " Vermilion Sea ; " to 
which Sir E. Tennent has recently added the sea around 
Ceylon, which is of a similar hue, and which he has 
ascertained to be owing to the presence of infusorial 

Off the coast of Brazil, Kotzebue observed on the 
surface of the sea, a dark brown streak, about twelve feet 
wide, and extending in length as far as the eye could 
reach. It was found to consist of an innumerable multi- 
tude of minute crabs, and the seeds [or air-vessels ?] of a 
submarine alo:a. 

In certain parts of the Arctic Ocean the water, instead 
of being colourless and transparent, is opaque, and of a 


Ceylon, i, p. 53. . 



deep green hue. Scoresby found that this was owing to 
the presence of excessi\ ely numerous microscopic Medusce. 
He computes that within the compass of two square 
miles, supposing these creatures to extend to the depth of 


two hundred and fifty fathoms, (which, however, is scarcely 


probable,) there would be congregated together a number 
which eighty thousand persons, counting incessantly from 
the creation till now, would not have enumerated, 
though they worked at the rate of a million a-week ! yet 
it is calculated that the area occupied by this "green 
water" in the Greenland Sea is not less than 20,000 
square miles. What a union of the small and the great 

is here! 

' It is little suspected by many how largely small seed- 
eating animals, and especially birds, contribute to the 
clothing of the earth with its varied vegetable riches. 
Peculiar provision is made in many cases for the dissemi- 
nation of seeds, in their own structure, of which the 
pappus of the dandelion and the adhesive hooks of the 
burdock are examples ; but this is largely effected also in 
the stomachs of birds, the seed being often discharged 
hot only uninjured, but made more ready to germinate 
by the heat and maceration to which it has been sub- 
jected. " From trivial causes spring mighty effects : " 

m w 

and the motto has been illustrated by a close observer 

from this same subject. " Doubtless many of our most 

"richly wooded landscapes owe much of their timber to the 

•agency of quadrupeds and birds. Linnets, goldfinches, 

thrushes, goldcrests, &c,, feed on the seeds of elms, firs, 

- -, 1 





and ashes, and carry them away to hedge-rows, where, 
fostered and protected by bush and bramble, they spring 
up and become luxuriant trees. Many noble oaks have 
been planted by the squirrel, who unconsciously yields no 
inconsiderable booh to the domain he infests. Towards 


autumn this provident little animal mounts the branches 
of oak-trees, strips off the acorns and buries them in the 
earth, as a supply of food against the severities of winter. 
He is most probably not gifted with a memory of suf- 
ficient retention to enable him to find every one he 
secretes, which are thus left in the ground, and springing 
up the following year, finally grow into magnificent trees. 
Pheasants devour numbers of acorns in the autumn, some 
of which having passed through the stomach, probably 
germinate. The nuthatch in an indirect manner also 
frequently becomes a planter. Having twisted off their 
boughs a cluster of beechnuts, this curious bird resorts to 
some favourite tree, whose bole is uneven, and endeavours, 
by a series of manoeuvres, to peg it into one of the 
crevices of the bark. During the operation it often- 
times fall to the ground, and is caused to germinate by 
tlifi moisture of winter. Many small beeches are found 
growing near the haunts of the nuthatch, which have 
evidently been planted in the manner described. 

Not less important, perhaps, are the results of the de- 
structive than those of the constructive propensities and 
powers of minute creatures. Of the charming Introduo- 


tion to Entomology, by Messrs Kirby and Spence, no less 

* Zoohgi.t, p. ii2. 



'^ * 



' tlian five entire epistles are occupied witli the injuries 


sustain from insects, while two are devoted 



the benefits they yield us. The former is almost an ap- 
palling array ; the injuries done to us in our field-crops, 
in Our gardens, in our orchards, in our woods and forests, 
not to mention those which attack our livino; stock or our 
persons, by these most minute of creatures, are indeed 
well calculated to impress on us the truth of that Oriental 
proverb, which tells us that the smallest enemy is not to 
be despised. 

k. The locust has been celebrated in all ages as one of the 
scourges of God ; and the Holy Scriptures bear testimony 


how often in ancient times, and with what effect, it was 
let loose upon the guilty nations. To outward appearance 
it is a mere grasshopper, in nowise more formidable than 
one of those crinking merry- voiced denizens of our 
summer-fields that children chase and capture ; yet with 
what terror is it beheld by the inhabitants of the East ! 
The speech which Mohammed attributed to a locust 
graphically represents the popular estimate of its powers : 

are the army of the great God ; we produce 
ninety-nine eggs ; if the hundred were complete we 
should consume the whole earth and all that is in it." 

It is only a short time since the public papers were 
occupied with articles expressing the most gloomy fears 
for the noble oak and pine forests of Germany. It was 
stated that millions of fine trees had already fallen under 
the insidious attacks of a beetle, a species of extreme 
minuteness, which lays its eggs in the bark, whence tlie 



. I 


larvae penetrate between tlie bark and the wood, and 
destroy the vital connexion between these joarts, inter- 
rujDting the course of the descending sap, and inducing 
rapid decay and speedy death. 

In tlie north of France, the public promenades are 
almost everywhere shaded by avenues of noble elms. In 
very many ca^es these trees are fast disappearing before 


the assaults of a similar foe. And the grand old elms of 
our own metropolitan parks and gardens are becoming so 
thinned, that great alarm has been felt, and the resources 
of science employed for the checking of the mischief. 
Fifty thousand trees, chiefly oaks, have also been destroyed 
in the Bois de Vincennes, near Paris. In all these cases 
the minute but mighty agent has been some species or 
other of the genus Scolytus. 

Fortunately in this clime we know only by report the 
consumptive energy of the termites, or white-ants ; " cala- 
mitas Indiarum.^' Wood, timber of all kinds, with one 
or two exceptions, is the object of their attacks ; and so 
unrelenting is their perseverance, so incredible are their 
numbers, that all the wood-work of a house disappears 
before them in the course of a night or two ; though in- 

dividually they are about the size of the common red ant 
of our woods. They have an aversion to the light, and 
invariably work under cover: hence, in attacking a tree, a 
post, a rafter, or a table, they eat out the interior, leaving 
the thinnest possible layer of the outer wood remaining. 
It frequently happens that, after their depredations have 
been committed, no indication of the work appears to the 




eye, but tlie least touch suffices to bring down the ap- 
parently solid structure, like a house of cards, amidst a 
cloud of blinding dust. If, however, as in the case of 
the supporting posts of a house, any incumbent weight 


has to be sustained, they have the instinct to guard against 
the crash which would involve themselves in ruin, 

filling up the hollowed posts with a sort of 
mortar, leaving only a slender way for tlieir own travel ; 
thus the posts are changed from wood to stone, and re- 
tain their solidity. 

■ Forbes in his Oriental Memoirs * has recorded a 
curious, but by no means unusual example of the ravages 
of ■ the termites. Having had occasion to shut up an 
apartment, he observed, on returning after a few weeks, a 
number of the well-known covered ways leading across 
the room to certain engravings hung in frames. The 
glasses appeared to be uncommonly dull, and the frames 
covered with dust. " On attempting," says he, " to wipe it 
off, I was astonished to find the glasses fixed to the wall, 


not suspended in frames as I left them, but completely 


surrounded by an incrustation cemented by the white 
ants, who had actually eaten up the deal frames and 
backboards, and the greater part of the paper, and left 
the glasses upheld by the incrustation or covered way, 
which they had formed during their depredations." 

Smeathman tells of a pipe of old Madeira wine hav- 
ing been tapped and entirely lost by a band of these 

* — 

insects, who had taken a fancy to the oak staves of the 

* Vol. i., p. 362. 


cask. And Sir E. Tennent appears to have fared no. 
better ; for he complains that, in Ceylon, he had a case of 
wine filled, in the course of two days, with almost solid 
clay, and only discovered the presence of the white ants 
by the bursting of the corks. 

They find their way into bureaux and cabinets, and 
greedily devour all papers and parchments therein, and 


" a shelf of books will be tunnelled into a gallery, if it 
happen to be in their line of march." Hence, as Hum- 
boldt observes, throughout the equinoctial regions of 
America, — and the same is true in similar climates of the 
Old World, indeed, in all, where very special precautions 
are not taken against it, — it is infinitely rare to find any 
records much more than half a century old. 

But though the exercise of their instinct brings these 
little insects into collision with man, and so far they act 
as his enemies, abundantly making up in pertinacity and 
consociation what they lack in individual force,— we shall 
greatly misunderstand their mission if we look at it only 
in this aspect. As an example of mean agents perform- 
ing great deeds, we must see them far from the haunts of 
man, engaged as the scavengers of the forest-wilds of the 
tropics ; the removers of fallen trees, of huge giants of the 
woods, commissioned to get rid of those enormous bulks 
of timber, which, having stood in stately grandeur and 
rich life for a thousand years, have at length yielded, to 
death. Not long does the vast mass lie cumbering the 
soil beneath: the termites attack it, enter its substance 
from the ground, and in the course of a few weeks sue- 


ceed in so emptying it, as to leave it a mere deceptive 
stell, on which if you step, to use the comparison of 
Smeathman, "you might as well tread upon a cloud." 

We presume that, in the following description of a 

t u.-ti 

scene in Brazil, we may understand the insects of which 
we are now speaking, though the traveller calls them 
" ants : " 

.' I » 

■ ■< - 

A number of tall, prostrate trees were lying about, 
upon which large columns of ants of all kinds moved 
busily to and fro. In penetrating into the depths of the 
primeval forest, one sees evidence at every step that these 
minute creatures are the destroyers of the colossal trees, 
whose strength braves all the attacks of storm and wind. 
A striking instance is this of how small are often the 
means which the Creator employs to produce the mightiest 
results; for what greater disproportion can be imagined 
than between an ant and one of these giants of the forest? 
No sooner is a tree attacked by them than it is doomed ; 
its size and strength are of no avail; and frequently these 
little insects will destroy it in such a manner that the 

-^ -ii < 

bark alone remains, and all the woody fibres crumble 
away, until the tall tree falls at length to the ground with 
a tremendous crash, a prey to the united and persevering 
attacks of millions and millions of the ants. Besides 

W * 

these proofs of the destructive power of these insects, the 
forests along the Estrada exhibit evidence of their skill 
in the pyramidical ant-hills, similar to those we had seen 
on the coast of the province of Rio de Janeiro. We 
also observed large trunks of trees pierced with deep 


holes, having the appearance of filigree on a grand scale. 


This, too, was probably the work of these destructive 

_ J 



In Africa, there are flies which are the actual lords of 


certain extensive districts, ruling with so absolute a sway, 
that not only man and his cattle are fain to submit to. 
them, but even the most gigantic animals, the elephants 
and rhinoceroses, cannot stand before them. There is the 
zimh of Abyssinia, the very sound of whose dreaded hum 
sends the herds from their pastures, and makes them run 
wildly about, till they drop with fatigue, fright, and hun- 
ger. There is no resource for the pastoral inhabitants 
but instantly to vacate the country, and retire with their 
herds to their nearest sands, where they will not be mo- 
lested. This they would do, though they knew that hos- 
tile bands of robbers were waylaying them. Such is the 

terror of a fly.-t" 

Quite as formidable in the southern portion of the 


same continent is the dreaded tsetse, like the zirrih one of 
the Tahanidce, though a different species. This insect, 


which is scarcely larger than our house-fly, reigns over 
certain districts, attacking the domestic animals. Its 
bite is certain death to the ox, horse, and dog; yet, 
strange to say, it produces no serious inconvenience to 


the human body, nor apparently to the wild game of 
tlie country — the buffaloes, giraffes, antelopes, and zebras, 
which roam by millions over the same plains. 

- » 
'- f 

The effect on the smitten beast is not immediate/ nor 

* Adalbert's Travels, ii., p. 237. + Brace's Travels, ii., p. 315. 


does the buzz produce the terror which that of the zimb 

' i - ■ ■ 

does. '^* It is not till after several days that the poison 

becjins to manifest its effect: then the eves and nose dis- 
cs - . " 


charge freely, the animal swells, and becomes gradually 


emaciated, till at length violent purging supervenes, and 
the animal perishes, the whole blood and flesh being unna- 
turally altered in condition.* 

Nor is Europe wholly free from such plagues. There 
is;* in Servia and the Banat, a minute ^y,f from whose 
destructive assaults on the cattle the inhabitants have 

suffered immense losses. A traveller, arriving at Golu- 
bacs, on the Danube, thus speaks of it : 
;'■" Near this place we found a range of caverns, famous 
for producing the poisonous fly, too well known in Servia 
and Hungary under the name of the Golubacser fly. These 
singular and venomous insects, somewhat resembling 

musquitoes, generally make their appearance during the 
first great heat of the summer, in such numbers as to 
appear like vast volumes of smoke. Their attacks are 
always directed against every description of quadruped, 
and so potent is the poison they communicate, that even 
an ox is unable to withstand its influence, for he always 
expires in less than two hours. This results, not so much 
from the virulence of the poison, as that every vulnerable 
part is simultaneously covered with these most destructive 
insects ; when the wretched animals, frenzied with pain, 
rush wild through the fields till death puts a period to 

* Livingstone's Travels, p. 80, et scq. 
f SimiJ'ium CoIumbascJiense, KolL 


their sutferings, or they accelerate dissolution by plunging 
headlong into the rivers. " * ■ - 

Perhaps worse, however, than these, or any of them, 
are the musquitoes. ; not that their virulence or fatality 
equals that of the tsetse or zimb, but because they are 
almost universally distributed. Those, terrible as they 
are, are limited to certain districts, but the musquito is 
ubiquitous, and everywhere is a pest and a torment. 
One needs to spend a night among musquitoes to under- 
stand what a true plague of flies is. Hundreds of tra- 
vellers might be cited on the subject, and if I adduce the 
following testimony, it is not because it is the strongest I 
could find, but because it is one of the most recent, and 
therefore least known : 

That traveller of all travellers, Mr Atkinson, who has 
laid open to us the most magnificent scenery of the world, 
and the most inaccessible, to whom neither the most fear- 
ful chasms and precipices, nor boiling torrents and swift 
rivers, nor earthquakes and furious storms, nor eternal 
frost and snow, nor burning waterless steppes, nor robbers, 
nor wild beasts, presented any impediment, — fairly con- 
fesses his conqueror in the musquito. The gnat alone, of 


all creatures, elicits from him a word of dread ; — he could 
not brave the musquitoes. Over and over he tells us in 
his mountain scrambles, that the musquitoes were there 
"in millions," — that they were "taking a most savage 
revenge on him for having sent his horses out of their 
reach," — that they were " devouring " him, — that he 


Spence's Travels in Circassia, i., p. 59. 




"neither dared to sleep nor to look out;" — that " the hum- 
ming sound of the millions was something awful j" — that 


, lie found himself "in the very regions of torment/' which 

^" it was utterly impossible to endure ; 




the poor 

horses stood mth their heads in the smoke, as a protection 

\ against the pests;" — and that "to have remained on the 

spot would have subjected them to a degree of torment 

neither man nor beast could endure, so that they were 

obliged to retreat." "I wish I could say," he feelingly 

-adds, "that we left the enemy in possession of the field. 

. Not so ; they pursued us with blood-thirsty pertinacity, 

tmtil we reached some open meadows, when they were 


driven back into their fenny region by a breeze, 
to prey on each other." 

I hope 

/ , 




* AtkiusoD^s Siberia, p. 75, etjpamm. 

-Ill '■ ' " 




- r^ 



- ^_ * 


\ » 

' f 

1 V 


t .*\ 

f ,■" 



\ "- 




■y * 





:* l i :. 


. 1 I ■' 






Though great and small must always be comparative 
terms, tlie human mind does ordinarily set up some 


standard of dimensions, for this or that particular class of 
entities, and is affected with emotions of surprise and 
admiration, in proportion as some examples either exceed 
or fall short of it. In living creatures, probably, the 
human body is the tacitly recognised medium of size ; for 
we call a horse or a buffalo a large animal, a cat or a' 
weasel a small one ; while, in such as pass beyond these 
limits in either direction, we are conscious that the dimen- 
sion becomes a prominent element in the interest with 
which we regard them. The first exclamation of one who 


sees an elephant for the first time, would probably be, 



*' How big he is !" and in like manner the first impression 
produced by a humming-bird, in most cases, would not 
be " How beautiful ! How glittering!" but ''How very 
small!" ^ 

I well remember the interest and almost awe with which, 


on my first voyage across the Atlantic, I saw suddenly 


emerge from the sea, the immense black oily back of a 
whala It was almost close to the ship, and it rose like a 




great smootli bank out of the water, gave a sort of wallow- 
ing roll, and quietly sank from sight again. The excite- 
ment of the momentary sight prevented my attempting to 
estimate its measurement, besides that the entire animal 
was not exposed, but it seemed to me nearly as large as 
the vessel in which I sailed. The species 



the great rorqual, since the whalebone whale is said never 


to venture beyond the limits of the Arctic Seas. This is 
the most enormous of all the animals known to inhabit 
this globe, attaining a length of a hundred feet and even 


-i y 

■ * 

* ' 

The skeleton of one which was stranded near 

Ostend in 1827, which was subsequenty exhibited in Paris 
and London, measured ninety-five feet. 



have been measured of the len^jth of a hundred and five 

' feet, and Sir Arthur de Capel Brooke asserts that it is 

occasionally seen of the enormous dimensions of one hun- 


dred and twenty feet. 
^jThe "right" or whalebone whale, the object of commer- 
cial enterprise in the Polar Seas, is little more than half 
as large as this , last-named bulk. Eighty and a hundred 
feet are mentioned, indeed, by the earlier writers, as pcca- 


sional dimensions of this species, but these statements are 
possibly exaggerations, or else the distinction between 
this and the rorqual may have been overlooked. A tra- 
dition exists of one Ochter, a Norwegian, of King Alfred's 


'* The gigantic whales that inhabit the Indian Ocean are probably of 
this genus. One was stranded on the Chittagong coast in August 1842, 
which measured ninety feet in length and forty-two in diameterj and 
abother on the' coast of Aracan in 1851, which was eighty-four feel 
long; (See Zoologist for Decemher 1859, p. 6778.) . 

"J - 

116 THE VAST. 

day, who " was one of six that had killed sixty whales in 
two days, of which some were forty-eight, some fifty yards 
long." The discrimination here would seem to imply 
actual measurement, though perhaps it was not very 
precise. At present, nothing like such a length is attained. 
The late Dr Scoresby, who was personally engaged in the 
capture of three hundred and twenty-two whales, never 
found one of this species that exceeded sixty feet. There is, 
however, one caveat needful to be remembered ; that an 
animal naturally long-lived, and which probably grows 
throughout life, is not likely to attain anything like its 
full dimensions when incessantly persecuted as the whale 
of the Arctic Seas has been for ages past. However, a 
whale of sixty feet is estimated to weigh seventy tons, or 
more than three hundred fat oxen. 

The sperm-whale or cachalot, whose home is the vast 
Pacific, from north to south and from east to west, holds 
a place as to bulk between the whalebone whale and the 
rorqual. Mr Beale, who is the authority in all that 
concerns this animal, gives eighty-four feet as the length 
of a sperm whale of the largest size, and its diameter 
twelve or fourteen feet. Of this huge mass, the head 


occupies about one third of the entire length, with a 
thickness little inferior to that of the body ; while, as this 
thickness is equal throughout, the front of the head ter- 
minating abruptly, as if an immense solid block had been 
sawn off, this part of the animal bears no small resemblance 
to an immense box. The appearance of a whale when 
disturbed, and going what seamen call "head-out," this 

• * 


.vast Jbluff head projected every few seconds out of water, 
has a most extraordinary appearance. 

yj. Undoubtedly tlie largest of terrestrial animals is the 

. . ^ » '* The huge earth-shaking beast; 

^ ' ^ ' ' *' ' The beast on whom the castle 

Or; , ' ; With all its guards doth stand; 

h -v. ] 


The beast that hath between his eyes 
The serpent for a hand/' 


But the specimens with which we are familiar in our 
eoological gardens and menageries, are inadequate repre- 
, sentatives of the race. It is in their native regions, of 
course, that we look for the most magnificent speciinens. 
Some exaggeration, however, has prevailed respecting the 



.. dimensions attainable by the elephant. " Seventeen to 

'- - \'- - - ■ .. . . 

twenty feet " have been given as its occasional height in 


the Madras presidency. The Emperor Baber, in his 


^Memoirs, alludes to the report that in the islands the 

.elephants attain ten gez, or about twenty feet; but he 

^ adds, *' I have never seen one above four or five gez," (eight 

or ten feet.) The East India Company's standard was 

J • 

seven feet and upwards, measured at the shoulder. Mr 


: Corse says the greatest height ever measured by him was 
,ten feet six inches. As an example of the deceptiveness 
.of a mere conjecture even by experienced persons, he 
^ mentions the case of an elephant belonging to the Nabob 
of Decca, which was said to be fourteen feet high. Mr 

Corse wished to measure particularly, as he himself judged 
him to be twelve feet. The driver assured him that the 
beast was from fifteen to eighteen feet ; — yet when care- 



1 1 8 THE VAST. 

fully measured, he did not exceed ten feet. The Ceylon 
specimens rarely exceed nine feet ; yet Wolf says, he saw 
one taken near Jaffna, which measured twelve feet one 
inch, of course to the arch of the back. 

■% ■- 

. . ^- "^.' 

The elephants of the farther peninsula much excel those 
of India and Ceylon, perhaps because they are less dis- 


turbed. The skeleton of one in the museum at St Peters- 


burg, which was sent to Peter the Great by the Shah of 
Persia, measures sixteen feet and a half in height ; and 
probably this is the highest authentic instance on record. 
The African elephant is perhaps not inferior to that of 
Pegu. Mr Pringle, in a very graphic picture, has described 
an unexpected rencontre with an enormous elephant in an 
African valley. " We halted, and surveyed him for a few, 
minutes in silent admiration and astonishment. He was. 
indeed, a mighty and magnificent creature. The two 
engineer officers, who were familiar with the appearance 


of the elephant in his wild state, agreed that the animal 
before us was at least fourteen feet in height." Major 
Denham in his expedition into Central Africa, with 
some which he guessed to be sixteen feet hio;li ; but one 
which he saw killed, and which he characterises as " aii 
immense fellow," measured twelve feet six to the back.* 


Fossil remains of an elephant have been discovered at 


Jubbalpore, which measure fifteen feet to the shoulder. 
I need only advert to other colossal quadrupeds, .the' 

^ <• 

Sir E. Tennent, {Ceylon^ ii., p. 291,) quoting this account, says "nine 
feet six inches ; " but this is a mis-reading. It was nine feet six inches 
to the hip-bone ; and three feet more to the back. . :'-'>' 



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seven. . or . eight species of rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, 


the giraffe, the earn el, the gaur, the gayall, and other great 
Vi'xld, oxen of India ; the urus, the bison, the Cape buffalo, 
the eland, ^^ost of these dwell in the poor and arid 
regions of South Africa: where the nakedness of the 
country permits them to be seen to advantage. < Dr An- 
drew Smith, in one day's march with the bullock- waggons 
saw, without wandering to any great distance on either 
side, between one hundred and one hundred and fifty rhino- 
ceroses, which belonged to three species ; the same day he 
saw several herds of giraffes, amounting together to nearly 
a hundred ; and, though no elephants were observed, yet 


they are found in this district. At the distance of little 
more than an hour's march from their place of encamp- 
ment on the previous night, his party actually killed at 
one spot eight hippopotamuses, and saw many more. 
In this same river there were likewise crocodiles. 
^ Among > birds, the condor of the Andes has been the 
subject of greatly exaggerated reports of its dimen^ 
sions. , When it was first discovered by the Spanish con- 
querors of America, it was compared to the Eokh of 
Arabian fable, and by some even considered to be the 
identical bird, "which is able to trusse an elephant." 
Garcilasso states that some of those killed by the 
Spaniards measured fifteen or sixteen feet (the vagueness 
of the "or" in what professes to be actual measurement 
is suspicious) from tip to tip of the extended wings. He 
adds that two will attack a bull and devour it, and that 
single individuals will slay boys of twelve years old. 

120 THE VAST. 

Desmarcliais improves upon this ; stretches the expan- 
sion of the wings to eighteen feet ; a width so enormous 
that, as he says, the bird can never enter the forest ; and 
he declares that a single one will attack a man, and 
carry off a stag. 

A modern traveller, however, soars far beyond these 
puny flights of imagination, and gravely gives forty feet 
as the measurement, carefully noted, as he informs us, 
" with his own hand,'' from the actual specimen. It is 
only charitable to conclude that he really measured sixteen 
feet, and that he either wrote " spaces " by mistake, or, 
which is most likely, wrote simply "16," translating it 
afterwards when he compared his notes with what others 
had said before him. Here, however, is the veracious 
description, which the reader will see does not lack 
romance in its embellishment. 

" It was so satiated with its repast on the carcass of a 
horse, as to suffer me to approach within pistol-shot 
before it extended its enormous wings to take flight. 


which was to me the signal to fire ; and having loaded 
with an ample charge of pellets, my aim proved effectual 
and fatal. What a formidable monster did I behold, 
screaming and flapping in the last convulsive struggle of 

life ! It may be difficult to believe that the most gigantic 
animal which inhabits the earth or the ocean, can be 
equalled in size by a tenant of the air ; and those persons 
who have never seen a laro^er bird than our mountain 
eagle, will probably read with astonishment of a species 
of that same bird, in the southern hemisphere, being so 


large and strong as to seize an ox with its talons, and to 

lift it into tlie air, whence it lets it fall to the ground, in 
order to kill it and prey upon the carcass. But this 
astonishment must, in a great measure, subside when the 


dimensions of the bird are taken into consideration, and 
which,- incredible as they may appear, I now insert from 
a note taken by my own hand. When the wings are 
spread they measure sixteen spaces, forty feet in extent 
from point to point. The feathers are eight spaces. 


twenty feet in length, and the quill part, two palms, 
eight feet in circumference. It is said to have strength 
'enough to carry off a living rhinoceros." * 

Humboldt dissipated these extravagances; though he 

confesses that it appeared to himself of colossal size, and 
it was only the actual admeasurement of a dead specimen 
that corrected the optical illusion. He met with no ex- 
ample that exceeded nine feet, and he was assured by 
' many of the inhabitants of Quito that they had never 
," shot any that exceeded eleven. This estimate, however, 
^^ appears to be below the reality ; for Tschudi, a most care- 
iiful and reliable authority, and an accomplished zoologist, 
"^ assigns to this bird in one place an expanse of "from 
i.. twelve to thirteen feet," while in another he says: "I 
^..'measured a very large male condor, and the width from 
the tip of one wing to the tip of the other was fourteen 
■ English feet and two inches, an enormous expanse of 
r'wing, not equalled by any other bird except the white 
^ albatross." -|- So far from his " trussing a rhinoceros," or 

<- * ^ 

^;>' ^ Temple's Travels in Peru, f Travels in Peru. 



1 22 THE VAST. 

even an ox, he cannot, according to Tschudi, raise even a 
sheep from the ground. " He cannot, when flying, carry 
a weight exceeding eight or ten pounds." The voracity 
of the obscene bird is very great. The owner of some 
captive specimens assured the naturalist that he had 
given to one, in the course of a^ single day, by way of 
experiment, eighteen pounds of meat, consisting of the 
entrails of oxen ; that the bird devoured the whole, 

and ate his allowance the next day with the usual ap- 

We have all been accustomed from childhood to regard 
with awe the enormous serpents of the hot and damp 
intertropical forests ; though the specimens carried about 
in travelling menageries have but little contributed to 
nurture the sentiment. A couple of coils of variegated 
mosaic, looking like a tesselated pavement, about as 
thick as a lacquey's calf, wrapped up in the folds of a 
blanket at the bottom of a deal box, we had difficulty in 
accepting as the impersonation of the demon which hung 
from the branches of an Indian tree, and, having pressed 


the life out of a buffalo in his mighty folds and broken 
his bones, swallowed the body entire, all but the horns. 
Here again there is incertitude and disappointment ; and 
the colossal dragon, which looms so laraje in the distance 

of time and space, grows " small by degrees and beauti- 
fully less " in the ratio of its approach to our own times 
and our own eyes. Yet enough of size and power re- 
mains, even when all legitimate deductions are made, to 
invest the great boa with a romantic interest, and to 


- I 




malce the inquiry into its real dimensions wortLy of 

V J - 


-- I may observe, that several species of these great ser- 
pents exist in the intertropical regions of America, Africa, 
aiid Asia ; but all these, though assigned by zoologists to 



distinct genera (the American species belonging to the 
genus Boa, and those of Africa and Asia to Python) 
have so much in common, in habits, structure, and size, 
that I shall speak of them without distinguishing the 

> The old Roman historians report that the army of 
Attilius Eegulus, while attacking Carthage, was assaulted 
by an enormous serpent, which was destroyed only by the 
aid of the military engines crushing it with huge stones. 
The skin of this monster, measuring 120 feet in length, 
was sent to Eome, and preserved as a trophy in a temple 
till the Numantine war. Several writers mention the 
fact, and Pliny speaks of its existence as well known. 
t- Diodorus Siculus mentions a serpent which was cap- 
tured, not without loss of human life, in Egypt, and which 
was taken to Alexandria; it measured thirty cubits, or 
about forty-five feet in length. 


Suetonius records that one was exhibited in front of 
the Comitium at Rome, which was fifty cubits, or seventy- 
five feet in length. 

• ' It is probable that these measurements were aU taken 
from the skin after having been detached from the body. 
I have had some experience in skinning serpents, and am 
therefore aware of the extent to which the skin, when 


124 THE VAST. 

dragged oflp by force, is capable of stretching : one-fourth 
of the entire length may not unfairly be deducted on this 
account. But even with this allowance, we must admit, 
unless we reject the testimony of sober historians, who 
could hardly "have been mistaken so grossly as to warrant 
such rejection, that serpents did exist in ancient times 
which far exceeded the limits that have fallen under the 
observation of modern naturalists. 

There is a well-known picture by Daniell, representing 
an enormous serpent attacking a boat's crew in one of 

W I 

the creeks of the Ganges. It is a graphic scene, said to 
have been commemorative of a fact. The crew had 
moored their boat by the edge of the jungle, and, leaving 

one of the party in charge, had gone into the forest. He 
lay down under the thwarts, and was soon asleep. During 

his unconsciousness an enormous python emerged from 

the jungle, coiled itself round the sleeper, and was in the 

act of crushing him to death, when his comrades returned. 


They succeeded in killing the monster, " which was found 
to measure sixty-two feet and some inches in length." 
This seems precise enough ; but we should like to know 
whether the measurement was made by the Lascars them- 

■ ■ 

selves, or by any trustworthy European. • 

A correspondent of the Edinburgh Literary Gazette 
has told, with every appearance of life-truth, a thrilling 
story of an encounter which he had with an enormous 
boa on the banks of a river in Guiana. Awaked, as he 
lay in his boat, by the cold touch of something at his feet, 
he found that the serpent's mouth was in contact with 

'-■ 1 



tliem, preparing, as he presumed, to swallow him feet 
foremost. In an instant he drew himself up, and, grasp- 
ing his gun, discharged it full at the reptile's head, which 
reared into the air with a horrid hiss and terrible con- 

^ 7 

t _ 

tortions, and then, with one stroke of his paddles, he shot 
up the stream beyond reach. On arriving at his friend's 


house, it was determined to seek the wounded serpent, 
and several armed negroes were added to the party. 
,, They soon found the spot where the crushed and 
bloody reeds told of the recent adventure, and proceeded 
cautiously to reconnoitre. Advancing thus about thirty 
yards, alarm was given that the monster was visible. 
" We saw through the reeds part of its body coiled up, 
and part stretched out ; but, from their density, the head 
was invisible. Disturbed, and apparently irritated, by 
our approach, it appeared, from its movements, about to 
attack us. Just as we caught a glimpse at its head we 
fired, both of us almost at the same moment. It fell, 
hissing and rolling in a variety of contortions.'' Here 
one of the negroes, taking a circuit, succeeded in hitting 
the creature a violent blow with a club, which stunned it, 
and a few more strokes decided the victory. " On mea- 
suring it, we found it to be nearly forty feet in length, 
and of proportional thickness." 

I do not know how far this story is to be relied on ; 
but if it is given in good faith, the serpent was the longest 
dependable example I know of in modern times. Still, 
"nearly forty feet" is somewhat indefinite. 

In Mr Ellis's amusing account of his visit to Manilla, 

126 THE VAST. 



he mentions specimens of enormous size ; but there does 
not seem to have been any actual admeasurement. ^ 

*' On one occasion," he says, " I was driven by an Indian, 
(coachman to the gentleman with whom I was stopping,) 
in company with a friend, to the house of a priest, who 
had some singularly large specimens t>f the boa-constrictor 
[python] ; one, of two that were in a wooden pen together, 
could hardly have been less than fifty feet long, and the 
stoutest part as thick round as a very fat man's body."* 

Bontius speaks of some which were upwards of thirty- 
six feet long ; doubtless Oriental pythons. An American 
boa is mentioned by Bingley, of the same length, the skin 
of which was in the cabinet of the Prince of Orange ; and 
Shaw mentions a skin in the British Museum which 

measured thirty-five feet. Probably in these last two 
cases we must allow something for stretching. . 

In the Bombay Courier, of August 31, 1799, a dreadful 
story is narrated of a Malay sailor having been crushed 
to death by a python on the coast of Celebes. His com- 
rades, hearing his shrieks, went to his assistance, but only 
in time to save the corpse from its living grave. They, 
however, killed the serpent. It had seized the poor man 
by the wrist, where the marks of the teeth were very dis- 
tinct, and the body shewed evident signs of having been 
crushed by coils round the head, neck, breast, and thigh. 
The length of the monster was " about thirty feet, and its 
thickness that of a moderate-sized man."' 

* EUis's Manilla, p. 237. 




I ^ 

, Mr M'Leod, in the Voyage of H. M.S. Alceste, has 
minutely described the feeding of a python from Borneo, 
which was sixteen feet long, and observes that, at "WTiydah, 
in Africa, he had seen serpents " more than double the 


size " of this specimen ; but it does not seem that they 
were measured. 

The Penang Gazette of a late date says — " A monster 
boa-constrictor [pythori] was killed one morning this 
week by the overseer of convicts at Bayam Lepas, on the 
road to Telo' Kumbar. His attention was attracted by 
the squealing of a pig, and on going to the place he 
found it in the coils of the snake. A few blows from the 
changkolf of the convicts served to despatch the reptile, 
and, on uncoiling him, he was found to be twenty-eight 
feet in length, and thirty- two inches in girth. This is one 
of the largest specimens we have heard of in Penang." * 

' Dr Andrew Smith, in his Zoology of South Africa, 
records having seen a specimen of Python Natalensis, 
which was twenty-five feet long, though a portion of the 
tail was wanting. This is the largest specimen I know 
actually measured in the flesh by a perfectly reliable 
authority ; and even here the amount to be added to the 
twenty -five feet can only be conjectured. 

' It may be interesting to compare these statements by 
setting them in a tabular form, indicating each specimen 
by some name that shall serve to identify it, and adding 


a note of the degree of credit due to each. 

* Quoted in The Times, Nov. 1, 1859. 

-.-■ 4 





Eegulxis . 
Daniell . 


Guiana . 
Bontius . 
Bingley . 
Shaw • 

M'Leod . 
Celebes , 
Penang . 
Smith . 

120 probably stretched. 





62 not reliable. 

50 conjectural. 

40 anonymous. 

36 reliable. 

36 perhaps stretched. 


32 conjectural 

30 vagvie. 

28 perhaps reliable. 

+ 25 certainly correct. 

Turning from the animal to the vegetable world, we 
find giants and colossi there which excite our wonder. 


There is a sea-weed, the Ifereocystis, which grows on the 
north-west shores of America, which has a stem no 
thicker than whipcord, but upwards of three hundred feet 
in length, bearing at its free extremity a huge hollow 
bladder, shaped like a barrel, six or seven feet long, and 
crowned with a tuft of more than fifty forked leaves, each 
from thirty to forty feet in length. The vesicle, being 
filled with air, buoys up this immense frond, which lies 
stretched along the surface of the sea: here the sea-otter 
has his favourite lair, resting himself upon the vesicle, or 
hiding among the leaves, while he pursues his fishing. 
The cord-like stem which anchors this floating tree must 
be of considerable strength ; and, accordingly, we find it 

used as a fishing-line by the natives of the coast. 


great as is the length of this sea-weed, it is exceeded by 
the Macrocystis, though the leaves and air-vessels of that 

I '1 






plant are of small dimensions. In the Nereoci/stis, the 
stem is unbranched ; in Macrocystis, it branches as it 


approaches the surface, and afterwards divides by repeated 
forkings, each division bearing a leaf, until there results 
a floating mass of foliage, some hundreds of square yards 
in superficial extent. It is said that the stem of this 
- plant is sometimes fifteen hundred feet in length. 


Mr Darwin, -(- speaking of this colossal alga at the 

southern extremity of America, where it grows up from 
a depth of forty-five fathoms to the surface, at a very 
oblique angle, says, that its beds, even when of no great 
breadth, make excellent natural floating breakwaters. It 
is quite curious to mark how soon the great waves from 
the ocean, in passing through the straggling stems into 
an exposed harbour, sink in elevation, and become 

I 4 


' Such an enormous length is not without parallel in 
terrestrial plants. Familiar to every one, — from the 
schoolboy, over whom it hangs in ter7'orem, upward, — as 
is the common cline, with its slenderness, its flexibility, 
and its flinty, polished surface,— how few are aware that 
it is only a small part of the stem of a palm-tree, which, 
in its native forest, reached a length of five hundred feet ! 
These ratans form a tribe of plants growing in the dense 


les of continental and insular India, which, though 

they resemble grasses or reeds in their appearance, are 
true trees of the palm kind. They are exceedingly slender, 
never increasing in thickness, though immensely in length ; 

L d 


• Harvey's Marine Algce, p, 28. 


f Nat Voyage, xi 



130 THE VAST. 

in the forest they trail along the ground, sending forth 
leaves at intervals, whose sheathing bases we may easily 
recognise at what we call joints, climb to the summits of 
trees, descend to the earth, climb and descend again, till 
some species attain the astonishing length of twelve 
hundred feet.* 

We are accustomed to consider the various species of 
Cactus as petted plants for our green-house shelves and 
cottage-windows ; yet, in our larger conservatories, there 
are specimens which astonish us by their size. A few 
years ago there were at the Eoyal Gardens at Kew, two 
examples of Echinocactus, like water-butts for bulk; 
one of which weighed upwards of seven hundred pounds, 
and the other about two thousand pounds. 

The species of Cereus which with us appear as green, 
succulent, angular stems, and bear their elegant, scarlet 

blossoms, adorned with a bundle of white stamens, grow, 
in the arid plains of South America, to thick lofty pillars 
or massive branching candelabra. Travellers in Cumana 
have spoken with enthusiasm of the grandeur of these 
rows of columns, when the red glow of sunset illumines 
them, and casts their lengthening shadows across the 

A kindred species in the Rocky Mountains of the 
northern continent has been thus described by a recent 
traveller : 

This day we saw, for the first time, the giant cactus 
(Cereus giganteus); specimens of which stood at first 

* Humph., v., p. 100. 


^ H 

.■ * 



rather widely apart, like straight pillars ranged along the 


sides of the valley, but, afterwards, more closely together, 
and in a different form — namely, that of gigantic cande- 
labra, of six-and-tliirty feet high, which had taken root 
among stones and in clefts of the rocks, and rose in 
solitary state at various points. 

^ ": This Cereus giganteus, the queen of the cactus tribe, is 
known in California and New Mexico under the name of 
Petahaya. The missionaries who visited the country be- 
tween the Colorado and the Gila, more than a hundred 
years ago, speak of the fruit of the Petahaya, and 
of the natives of the country using it for food ; and they 
also mention a remarkable tree that had branches, but no 
leaves, though it reached the height of sixty feet, and was 
of considerable girth The wildest and most in- 
hospitable regions appear to be the peculiar home of this 
plant, and its fleshy shoots will strike root, and grow to a 
surprising size, in chasms in heaps of stones, where the 
closest examination can scarcely discover a particle of 
vegetable soil. Its form is various, and mostly depen- 
dent on its age ; the first shape it assumes is that of an 
immense club standing upright in the ground, and of 
. double the circumference of the lower part at the top. 
Tliis form is very striking, while the plant is still only 
from two to six feet high, but, as it grows taller, the 
thickness becomes more equal, and when it attains the 
height of twenty-five feet, it looks like a regular pillar ; 
after this it begins to throw out its branches. These 
come out at first in a globular shape, but turn upward as 


182 THE VAST. 

they elongate, and then grow parallel to the trunk, and. 

at a certain distance from it, so that a cereus with many 
branches looks exactly like an immense candelabrum, espe- 
cially as the branches are mostly symmetrically arranged 
round the trunk, of which the diameter is not usually 
more than a foot and a half, or, in s6me rare instances, a 
foot more. They vary much in height ; the highest we 
ever saw, at Williams' Fork, measured from thirty-six to 
forty feet ; but, south of the Gila, they are said to reach 
sixty ; and when you see them rising from the extreme 
point of a rock, where a surface of a few inches square 
forms their sole support, you cannot help wondering that 

the first storm does not tear them from their airy eleva- 

" If the smaller specimens of the Cereus grganteus that 
we had seen in the mornino- excited our astonishment, the 
feeling was greatly augmented, when, on our further 
journey, we beheld this stately plant in all its magnifi- 
cence. The absence of every other vegetation enabled us 
to distinguish these cactus-columns from a great distance, 
as they stood symmetrically arranged on the heights and 

declivities of the mountains, to which they iuiparted a 
most peculiar aspect, though certainly not a beautiful one. 

Wonderful as each plant is, when regarded singly, as a 
grand specimen of vegetable life, these solemn, silent 
forms, which stand motionless, even in a hurricane, give a 
somewhat dreary character to the landscape. Some look 
like petrified giants, stretching out their arms in speechless 
pain, and others stand like lonely sentinels, keeping their 

MJ- - * 





dreary' watcli on tlie edge of precipices, and gazing into 


the abyss, or over into the pleasant valley of the WiUiams' 
Fork, at the flocks of birds that do not venture to rest on 
the thorny arms of the Petahaya ; though the wasp and 
the gaily variegated woodpecker may be seen taking up 


their abode in the old wounds and scars of sickly or 


damaged specimens of this singular plant." * 

In the island of Teneriffe there still exists a tree which 
is an object of scientific curiousity to every visitor, the 
Drason-tree of Orotava. It has been celebrated from the 
discovery of the island, and even earlier, for it had been 
venerated by the Guanches as a sacred tree from imme- 
morial time. Its height is about seventy feet, but its 
^ bulk is far more extraordinary. Le Dru found the cir- 


cumference of the trunk, near the ground, to be seventy- 
nine feet. Humboldt, who, when he ascended the Peak 
in 1799, measured it some feet from the ground, found it 
forty-eight feet ; and Sir G. Staunton gives thirty-six feet 


as the circumference at a height of ten feet. 

■ The banyan, ofsacred fig of India, acquires a prodigious 
size, not by the enlargement of its individual trunk, but 
by the multiplication of its trunks, in a peculiar manner 
of growth. As its horizontal limbs spread on all sides, 
shoots descend from them to the earth, in which they 
, root, and become so many ; secondary stems, extending 
their own lateral branches, which in turn send down fresh 
iootino" shoots, thus ever widenin" the area of this won- 

drous forest, composed of a single organic 


This is 


134j the vast. 

the tree which Milton makes afford to our guilty first 
parents the " fig-leaves " with which they hoped to clothe 
their new-found nakedness. 

** So counsell'd he, and both together went 
Into the thickest wood ; there soon they chose 
The fig-tree ; not that kind for fruit reiiown'd j ■ 
But such as at this day, to Indians known 


In Malabar or Decan, spreads her arms, 

Branching so broad and long, that in the ground 

The bended twigs take root, and daughters grow 

About the mother-tree, a pillar'd shade 

High overarched, and echoing walks between : 

There oft the Indian herdsman shunning heat, 

Shelters in cool, and tends his pasturing herds 

At loopholes cut through thickest shade : those leaves 

They gather' d, broad as Amazonian targe ; 

And, with what skill they had, together sew'd, 

To gird their waist. 


Banyans exist which are much older than the Christian 
era. Dr Eoxburgh mentions some whose area is more 
than fifteen hundred feet in circumference, and one hun- 
dred in height, the principal trunk being twenty or thirty 
feet to the horizontal boughs, and eight or nine feet in 
diameter. But the most celebrated tree of this kind is 

growing on the banks of the Nerbudda, and 


an almost incredible area, of which the circumference still 
existing is nearly two thousand feet, though a consider- 


able portion has been swept away by the floods of the 
river. The overhanging branches which have not (or had 
not at the time this description was made) yet thrown 
down their perpendicular shoots, cover a far wider space. 

Paradise Lost, book i 

• r 





Jhree hundred and twenty main trunks may be counted, 


while the smaller ones exceed three thousand ; and each 

* lUf ^ . " 


i J 


of these is constantly sending forth its branches and pen- 
dent root-shoots to form other trunks, and become the 
augmenters of the vast colony. Immense popular assem- 
blies are sometimes convened beneath this patriarchal fig, 
and it has been known to shelter seven thousand men 
at one time beneath its ample shadow. 



• The Baobab, a tree of tropical Africa, but now natu- 
ralised in other hot countries, is one which attains an 
immense bulk. Its growth is chiefly in the trunk. It is 
by no means uncommon for a bole of seventy-five or 
eighty feet in circumference to begin to send out its 
branches at twelve or fifteen feet from the ground ; and 
the entire height is frequently little more than the circum- 
ference of the trunk. The lower branches, at first hori- 


zontal, attain a great length, and finally droop to the 


ground, completely hiding the trunk, and giving to the 
tree the appearance of a vast hillock of foliage. 

L , 


: Some examples of the dimensions of this immense, but 


soft-wooded and spongy tree, may be adduced. Adan- 
son, in 174^8, saw, at the mouth of the Senegal, baobabs 
\s^hich were from twenty-six to twenty-nine feet in dia- 
meter, with a height of little more than seventy feet, and 
a head of foliage a hundred and eighty feet across. He 
remarks, however, that other travellers had found speci- 
mens considerably larger. Peters measured trunks from 
twenty to twenty-five feet thick, which he says were the 

* Forbes* Oriental Mcmotn. 



136 THE VAST. 

largest he saw. Perrottet, in his Flora of Senegamhia, 
declares that he had seen some thirty-two feet in diame- 
ter, and seventy to eighty feet high. Golberry found 
specimens attaining thirty-six feet in diameter, yet but 
sixty-four feet in height. And Aloysius Cadamosto, who 
was the first to describe the tree, found specimens whose 
circumference he estimated at seventeen fathoms, which 
would give a diameter of thirty-four feet* 

A kind of cypress, growing in Oaxaca, in Mexico, has 
attained great celebrity among botanists, De Candolle 
having stated its diameter at sixty feet. Humboldt, who 
speaks from personal examination, an advantage which 
the great botanist did not possess, reduces it to forty feet 
six inches — a very enormous bulk, however, still. 

A recent traveller in Venezuela, thus notices a tree of 
remarkable dimensions : 

" Soon after leaving Turmero, we cauoht sio;ht of the 

far-famed Zamang del Guayre, and in about an hour's 
time arrived at the hamlet of El Guayre, from whence it 
takes its name. It is supposed to be the oldest tree in 
the world, I for so great was the reverence of the Indians 
for it on account of its age at the time of the Spanish 
Conquest, that the Government issued a decree for its 
protection from all injury, and it has ever since been 
public property. It shews no sign whatever of decay, but 
is as fresh and green as it was most probably a thousand 
years ago. The trunk of this magnificent tree is only 

See Humboldt's Aspects of Nature. 
t This is probably the exaggeration of local prejudice. 






sixty feet high, by thirty feet in circumference, so that it 
is not so much the enormous size of the Zamang del 
Guayre that constitutes its great attraction, as the wonder- 
ful spread of its magnificent branches, and the perfect 
dome-like shape of its head, which is so exact and regular 
that one could almost fancy some extinct race of giants 
had been exercising their topiarian art upon it. The 
circumference of this dome is said to be nearly six hun- 
dred feet, and the measure [arch?] of its semicircular 
head very nearly as great. The zamang is a species of 
mimosa, and what is curious and adds greafly to its 
beauty and softness is, that the leaves of this giant of 
nature are as small and delicate as those of the silver- 
willow, and are equally as sensitive to every passing 

Even in temperate climates, among the trees with which 
we are familiar, vast dimensions are not unknown. A 


yew in the churchyard of Grasford, North Wales, mea- 
sures more than fifty feet in girth below the branches. 
In Lithuania, lime-trees have been measured of the cir- 
cumference of eighty-seven feetf And, near Saintes, in 
France, there is an oak, which is sixty-four feet in height, 
and measures nearly thirty feet in diameter close to the 
ground, and twenty-three feet at five feet high. A little 

b I 

room, twelve feet nine inches in width, has been made in 
the hollow of the trunk, and a semicircular bench within 
it has been carved out of the living wood. A window 

* Sullivan's Jlamhles in North and South Amenca, p. 400 
+ Endlicher, Grundz. der Bat., p. 399. 


gives light to the interior, and a door closes it, while 
elegant ferns and lichens serve for hangings to the 


But let us look at examples in which prodigious height 
and immense bulk are united. The Macrocystis and the 

ratan are enormously lengthened, but they are slender; 

the baobab and the cypress are very thick, but they are 
short. The colossal locust-trees of equinoctial America 
are pre-eminent for vastness in both aspects. Yon Mar- 
tins has depicted a scene in a Brazilian forest, -f* where 
some trees of this kind occurred of such enormous dimen- 
sions, that fifteen Indians with outstretched arms could 
only just embrace one of them. At the bottom they were 
eighty-four feet in circumference, and sixty feet where 
the boles became cylindrical. "They looked more like 
living rocks than trees ; for it was only on the pinnacle of 
tlieir bare and naked bark that foliage could be discovered, 
and that at such a distance from the eye that the forms 
of the leaves could not be made out. 

The various species of gum-trees J of Australia and 
Tasmania are prodigious examples of vegetable life, occa- 
sionally attaining a height of two hundred and fifty feet, 


with a proportionate thickness. The following statement 
of Mr Backhouse will give the reader a vivid idea of 
a Tasmanian forest. He is speaking of the stringy- 
bark : § 

Ann. Soc. Ayr., RocheUe, 1843. 
f It is copied in Lindley's Vegetable Kingdom^ p. 651. 
4; They form the genus EucaJijptua, § EucaL rdbuda. 




■ ■ i 

"Some of the specimens exceed two hundred feet, 
rising ahnost to the height of the monument in London 
before branching ; their trunks also will bear comparison 

r ■ 

with "that stately column, both for circumference and 
straiglitness. One of them was found to measure fifty- 
.five feet and a half round its trunk at five feet from the 
ground ; its height was computed at two hundred and 
fifty feet, and its circumference was seventy feet at the 
base ! My companions spoke to one another, and called 
to me when on the opposite side of the tree, and their 


toiceis sounded so distant that I concluded they had in- 
quitted me in search of some other object. 
i accordingly called to them, and they in answer remarked 
the distant sound of my voice, and inquired if I possibly 
were behind the tree. At the time when the road was 
orming through the forest, a man, who had only two 
hundred yards to go from one company of people to 


another, lost his way ; he shouted, and was repeatedly 
answered; but, getting farther astray among the prodigious 

* - 

(runks, his voice became inaudible, and he perished. A 
prostrate tree of this kind was measured two hundred and 
thirteen feet long ; we ascended the trunk on an inclined 

formed by one of its huge limbs, and walked four 
of us abreast with ease upon the trunk. In its fall it had 
hurled down another, one hundred and sixty-eight feet 
long, which had brought up with its roots a wall of earth 


twenty feet across V 

But examples of even superior size have been described 
by the Ptev. T. Ewing of Hobart Town. The species is 

140 THE VAST. 

probably the same, though called by another provincial 


" Last week I went to see two of the largest trees in 
the world, if not the largest, that have ever been measured. 
They were both on a tributary rill to the North-west Bay 
River, at the back of Mount Wellington, and are what are 
here called Swamp Gums. One was growing, the other 
prostrate ; the latter measured, to the first branch, two 
hundred and twenty feet ; from thence to where the top 
was broken off and decayed, sixty-four feet, or two hun- 
dred and eiglity-four feet in all, so that with the top it 


must have been considerably beyolid three hundred feet. 
It is thirty feet in diameter at the base, and twelve at the 
first branch. We estimated it to weigh, with the first 
branch, four hundred and forty tons ! The standing 
giant is still growing vigorously, without the least symp- 
tom of decay, and looks like a large church tower among 
the puny sassafras trees. It measures, at three feet from 
the ground, one hundred and two feet in circumfurence ; 
at the ground, one hundred and thirty feet ! We had no 
means of ascertaining its height (which, however, must be 


enormous) from the density of the forest. I measured 
another not forty yards from it, and at three feet from 
the ground it was sixty feet round ; and at one hundred 
and thirty feet, where the first branch began, we judged 
it to be forty feet ; this was a noble column indeed, and 
Bound as a nut. I am sure that within a mile there are 

I r 

at least one hundred growing trees forty feet in circum- 




The, public exhibition of the "Mammoth-Tree'" in 
London has, however, familiarised us with the fact that 
greater trees exist than any yet noticed. Upper Cali- 
fornia is the home of the most gigantic of vegetable pro- 
ductions, which form two species of a sort of Cypress, 

named respectively Sequoia sempervirens and Seq. WeU 
lingtonia. The latter has attained the most celebrity. 
."About thirty miles from Sonora, in the district of 
Calaveras, you come to the Stanislas river ; and, following 
one of its tributaries that murmurs through a deep, 
wooded bed, you reach the Mammoth-tree Valley, which 
lies fifteen hundred feet above the level of the sea. In 


this valley you find yourself in the presence of the giants 
of the vegetable world ; and the astonishment with which 
you contemplate from a distance these tower-like Coniferse, 
rising far above the lofty pine-woods, is increased when 
on a nearer approach you become aware of their pro- 
digious dimensions. There is a family of them, consist- 
ing of ninety members, scattered over a space of about 
forty acres ; and the smallest and feeblest among them is 
'^ not less than fifteen feet in diameter. You can scarcely 

' t 

believe your eyes as you look up to their crowns, which, 
in the most vigorous of the colossal stems, only begin at 
the height of a hundred and fifty or two hundred feet 
from the ground." * 

Each member of this wonderful group has received a 
familiar name, in many cases indicating in its homely 
associations the rude mind of the backwoodsman. A 


MoUhausen's Journey to the Padjic, ii, p. 363. 

+ ^ 

142 THE V AST- 

hotel has been built close to the group, which has become 
a scene of attraction to visitors from all parts of the 
country. An enumeration of a few of the more promi- 
nent trees, with their statistics, will enable us better to 
form an idea of the scene, particularly if we take the 
monument of London as a standard of comparison, whose 


total height is two hundred and two feet, and fifteen teet 
the diameter of the column at the plinth. 

Leaving the hotel, and proceeding into the grove, the 
visitor presently comes to the "Miner's Cabin," a tree 
measuring eighty feet in circumference, and attaining 
three hundred feet in height. The "cabin,'" or burnt 
cavity, measures seventeen feet across its entrance, and 
extends upwards of forty feet. Continuing our ramble, 
admiring the luxuriant growth of underwood, consisting 
of firs, cedars, dog-wood, and hazel, we come to the 
"Three Graces." These splendid trees appear to grow, 
and perhaps do grow, from one root, and form the most 
beautiful group in the forest, towering side by side to the 
height of two hundred and ninety feet, tapering symme- 
trically from their base upwards. Their united circum- 
ference amounts to ninety-two feet ; it is two hundred 
feet to the first limb on the middle tree. The " Pioneer's 
Cabin " next arrests our attention, risincr to the heio^ht of 
one hundred and fifty feet, (the top having been broken 
off,) and thirty- three feet in diameter. Continuing our 

walk, we came to a forlorn-lookinor individual, havino- 

. ( 

many rents in the bark, and, withal, the most shabby 
looking in the forest. This is the "Old Bachelor;" it i 



about three hundied feet high, and sixty feet in circura- 
ference. The next tree is the " Mother of the^Forest," pre- 
sently to be mentioned as having been stripped of its bark 
by speculators in 1854. We are now amidst the "Family 


Group," , and standing near the uprooted base of the 
"Father of the Forest." This scene is grand and beauti- 
ful beyond description. The venerable "Father" has 
long since bowed his head in the dust ; yet how stupend- 
ous even in his ruins! He measures one hundred and 
twelve feet in circumference at the base, and can be traced 
three hundred feet, where the trunk was broken by falling 
against another tree. A hollow chamber, or burnt cavity, 
extends through the trunk two hundred feet, large enough 
for a person to ride through. Near its base is a spring 
of water. Walking upon the trunk, and looking from its 
uprooted base, the mind can scarcely conceive its pro- 


digious dimensions, while on either hand tower his giant 
sons and daughters. Passing onward, we meet with the 

"Husband and Wife," leaning affectionately towards one 

another ; they are each sixty feet in circumference, and 

' two hundred and fifty feet in height. "Hercules," one of 

the most gigantic specimens in the forest, stands leaning 


in our j)ath. This tree, like many others, has been burnt 
at the base ; it is three hundred and twenty-five feet high, 


and ninety-seven feet in circumference. The " Hermit, 
rising solitary and alone, is next observed. This tree, 
straight and well-proportioned, measures three hundred 

and twe..ty feet high, and sixty feet in circumference 


Still returning towards the hotel by the lower trail, we 

144 THE VAST. 

pass the "Mother and Son," which together measure 
ninety-three feet in circumference ; the " Mother " is 
three hundred and twenty, the " Son " a hopeful youth 
of three hundred feet. The "Siamese Twins and their 
Guardian " form the next group : the " Twins " have one 
trunk at the base, separating at the height of forty feet, 
each measuring three hundred feet high ; the '' Guardian" 

is eighty feet in circumference, and three hundred and 
twenty-five feet high. Beyond stands the " Old Maid," 
slightly Lowing in her lonely grief; she measures sixty feet 
in circumference, and is two hundred and sixty feet high. 
Two beautiful trees, called "Addie and Mary," are the 
next to arrest our attention, measuring each sixty-five feet 
in circumference, and nearly three hundred feet high. 
We next reach the "Horse-back Eide," an old fallen 
trunk of one hundred and fifty feet in length, hollowed 
out by the fires which have, in days gone by, raged 

through the forest. The cavity is twelve feet in the clear 
and in the narrowest place, and a person can ride through 
on horseback, a distance of seventy-five feet. "Uncle 
Tom's Cabin " next claims our admiration, being three 

hundred feet high, and seventy-five feet in circumference. 
The " Cabin " has a burnt entrance of two and a half feet 
in diameter ; the cavity within is large enough to seat fif- 
teen persons. Two other trees we must note ; one of 
which, named the "Pride of the Forest," remarkable for 
the smoothness of its bark, measures two hundred and 
eighty feet in height, and sixty feet in circumference. 

The " Burnt Cave " is also remarkable ; it measures forty 



feet nine inches across its roots, while the cavity extends 


to the distance of forty feet — large enough for a horseman 
to ride in, and, turnini? round, return. We now reach 



the " Beauty of the Forest," a tree sixty- five feet in cir- 
cumference, fully three hundred feet high, symmetrical in 
formj and adorned with a magnificent crest of foliage. 
Reaching the road, and returning to the house, we pass 
the "Two Guardsmen," which tower to the heioht of 
three hundred feet, and are sixty-five and seventy feet 
in circumference, forming an appropriate gateway to this 

, wonderful forest. 

' , Two of these trees have been used for the satisfaction 
of public curiosity at a distance from their home. One 
of the noblest, called the " Big Tree," was felled ; a work 
of no small labour, since the trunk was ninety-six feet in 
circumference at the base, and solid throughout. It was 
effected by boring holes with augers, which w^re then 
connected by means of the axe, and occupied twenty-five 
men for five days. But even when this was done, so 
accurately perjDCndicular was the noble column that it 
would not fall, and it was only by applying a wedge and 
strong leverage, during a heavy breeze, that its overthrow 
was at last efiected. In falling it seemed to shake the 
ground like an earthquake ; and its immense weight 
forced it into the soft virgin soil, so that it lies imbedded 
in a trench, and the stones and earth were hurled up- 
ward by the shock with such force that these records 
of the fall may be seen on the surrounding trees to the 

- heii]:ht of nearly a hundred feet. The stump was smoothed, 

\ - 

146 THE VAST. 

and lias been fitted up for theatrical performances and 
balls, affording ample room for thirty- two dancers. The 
bark was removed for a certain length, and being put 
up symmetrically, as it originally subsisted, constituted 
a large room, furnished with a carpet, a piano, and seats 
for forty persons. In this state it was exhibited in various 
cities of America and Europe. 

So successful was this speculation, that another hero 
of the Barnum tribe proceeded to separate the entire bark 
from the " Mother of the Eorest," to a height of one hun- 
dred and sixteen feet, removing it in sections, carefully 
marked and numbered, for future reconstruction. It is 
tbis trophy which has been exhibited in London, first in 
Newman Street, and afterwards at the Adelaide Gallery. 
These buildings, however, would not admit of the erection 
of the whole, so that it was removed in 1856 to the Crys- 
tal Palace, where it now delights the eyes of thousands 

Perhaps we can scarcely regret the removal and trans- 
port of these relics, especially as it is said the "Mother" 
has not been perceptibly injured in health by the abstrac- 
tion of her outer garment. Yet it is a matter of congra- 


tulation that pecuniary avidity will no further diminish 
this noble grove, for the law has now prohibited the 
injury of any more trees, on any pretence whatever.* 

All these are the mighty works of an Almighty God ; 
not self-produced, as some would fain assure us, by the 

* This account is chiefly condensed from a memoir by Dr Berthold 
Seemann, F.L.S., in tlie Annals and Mag, of Nat Hist, for March 1859. 



operation of what are called eternal " laws," but designed 
by a Personal Intelligence, created by a Living Word, and 
hpheld by an Active Power. 

lyJ' Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all 
deeps : . . . mountains, and all hills ; fruitful trees, and 
all cedars ; beasts and all cattle ; creeping things, and 
flying fowl ! His glory is above the earth and heaven." 
(Ps. cxlviii) 



%. > 


. • * 


' *» I 

V . 

, • 

.- > 

• i 

\ [- 

4 * 

i ' + . ^ 

f - 

: ' 




If great bulk excites our admiration, so does great minute- 
ness. He who of old wrote the Iliad within the com- 
pass of a nut-shell, might have copied the poem a hun- 
dred times over, without eliciting one pufF of that gas 
which enabled him " hominum volitare per ora/* if he had 
confined himself to the ordinary scale ; and the curious 
interest with which we gaze on a dozen spoons carved out 
of one cherry-stone, and enclosed in another, we should 
not think of bestowing on the same number of dessert 
spoons in the plate-basket. The excessive minuteness of 
the object in question is the point to be admired, and yet 
not 7nere minuteness ; we might see objects much smaller, 
atoms of dust for instance, and pass them by without a 
thought. There must be minuteness combined with a com- 
plexity, which, in our ordinary habit of thinking, we asso- 
ciate with far greater dimensions : in the one case, the 
number, form, and order of the letters that make ujj the 
poem ; in the other, the number, shape, and carving of 
the toy-spoons. 

And thus, when we look on the tiny harvest mouse, 
two of which scarcely weigh a halfpenny, and which 
brings up its large little family of eight hopeful mouse- 

> « 



lings in a nest no bi 


than a cricket-ball 


'tinier Etruscan slirew, it greatly enhances our interest to 

'know that every essential organ is there which is in the 

giant rorqual of a hundred feet. The humming-bird is 

* J 


' constructed exactly on the same model as to essentials as 
the condor ; the little sphserodactyle, which we might put 
into a quill-barrel, and carry home in the waistcoat pocket, 
as the mighty crocodile ; the mackerel-midge, which never 
surpasses an inch and a quarter in length, as the huge 

-basking- shark of six-and- thirty feet. 

' , Complexity of structure, the multiplicity and variety of 
organs, do not depend upon actual dimensions, but rather 
upon the position in the great plan of organic existence 
which the creature in question occupies. The harvest 
mouse possesses a much more elaborate organisation than 
the vast shark or colossal snake. In general, the creatures 
of simple structure are minute, — the most simple, the most 
minute ; but we need to limit this proposition by many 


conditions and exceptions, before we shall fully apprehend 

the true 

of the case. Ig 

exhibitors of oxy 

hydrogen microscopes will frequently, indeed, be heard to 
declare that all the specks that are seen shooting to and 
fro, or revolving, top- fashion, in their populous drops of 
water, are furnished with all the organs, tissues, and 

members, that constitute the human frame ; and similar 
statements were not uncommon in cheap compilations of 
natural history a few years ago. This has been abund- 
antly shewn to be erroneous ; but the tendency has been to 
run into an opposite extreme ; and to assume that what are 


called " low forms " of organic life are exceedingly simple 
in their structure. There is, I say, error here ; the mi- 
croscope is daily revealing the fact, that in such beings 
the tissues that had been too hastily thought simple and 
almost homogeneous are really complex, and that systems 
of organs of the most elaborate character are present, 
which had been altogether overlooked and unsuspected. 

What is more interesting than an examination, by means 
of a first-rate microscope, of a tiny atom, that inhabits 
almost every clear ditch, — the Melicerta ? The smallest 
point that you could make with the finest steel-pen would 
be too coarse and large to represent its natural dimen- 
sions ; yet it inhabits a snug little house of its own con- 
struction, which it has built up stone by stone, cementing 
each with perfect symmetry, and with all the skill of an 
accomplished mason, as it proceeded. It collects the 
material for its mortar, and mingles it ; it collects the 


material for its bricks, and moulds them ; and this with a 
precision only equalled by the skill with which it lays 
them when they are made. As might be supposed, with 
such duties to perform, the little animal is furnished with 
an apparatus quite unique, a set of machinery, to which, 
if we searched through the whole range of beasts, birds, 
reptiles, and fishes, and then, by way of supplement, 

<;xamined the five hundred thousand s^Decies of insects to 
boot, — we should find no parallel. 

The whole apparatus is exquisitely beautiful. The 
head of the pellucid and colourless animal unfolds into 
a broad transparent disk, the edge of which is moulded 


into four rounded segments, not unlike the flower of the 
heart's-ease, supposing the fifth petal to be obsolete. The 
entire niaroin of this flower-like disk is set with fine 
vibratile cilia, the current produced by which runs uni- 
rformly in one direction. Thus there is a strong and 
rapid set of water around the edge of the disk, following 

all its irregularities of outline, and carrying with it the 
floating particles of matter, which are drawn into the 
stream. At every circumvolution of this current, however, 
as its particles arrive in succession at one particular point, 
viz., the great depression between the two uppermost 
petals, a portion of these escape from the revolving 
direction, and pass ofi" in a line along the summit of the 
face towards the front, till they merge in a curious little 
cup-shaped cavity, seated on what we may call the chin. 
"' This tiny cup is the mould in which the bricks are 
made, one by one as they are wanted for use. The 
hemispherical interior is ciliated, and hence the contents 
are maintained in rapid rotation. These contents are the 
atoms of sedimentary and similar matter, which have 
been gradually accumulated in the progress of the ciliary 
current ; and these, by the rotation within the cup becom- 
ing consolidated, probably also with the aid of a viscid 

secretion elaborated for the purpose, form a globular 
pellet, which as soon as made is deposited, by a sudden 
inflexion of the animal, on the edge of the tube or case, at 
the exact spot where it is wanted. The entire process of 
making and depositing a pellet occupies about three 




I say nothing about the other systems of organs con- 
tained in this living atom : the arrangements destined to 
subserve the pur^^oses of digestion, circulation, respiration, 
reproduction, locomotion, sensation, &c., though these are 
all more or less clearly distinguishable in the tissues of the 
animal, which is as translucent as glassi^ For the moment 
I ask attention only to the elaborate conformation of 
organs, which I have briefly described, for the S]3ecial 
purpose of building a dwelling. No description that I 
could draw up, however, could convey any idea approach- 
ing to that which would be evoked by one good sight of 
the little creature actually at work ; — a most charming 
spectacle, and one which, from the commonness of the 

animal, and its ready performance of its functions under 
the microscope, is very easy to be attained. 

It is impossible to witness the constructive operations 
of the melicerta without being convinced that it possesses 


mental faculties, at least if we allow these to any animals 
below man. If, when the chinpanzee weaves together the 
branches of a tree to make himself a bed; when the beaver, 
in concert with his fellows, gnaws down the birch sap- 
lings, and collects clay to form a dam ; when the martin 


brings together pellets of mud and arranges them under 
our eaves into a hollow receptacle for her eggs and young, 
we do not hesitate to recognise mind — call it instinct, 
or reason, or a combination of both, — how can we fail to 
see that in the operations of the invisible animalcule there 
are the workings of an immaterial principle ? There must 
be a power to judge of the condition of its case, of the 



F ^ ■ 





height to Avhich it must be carried, of the time when this 
must be done ; a will to commence and to go on, a will to 
leave off, (for the ciliary current is entirely under control) ; 
a consciousness of the readiness of the pellet ; an accurate 
estimate of the spot where it needs to be deposited ; (may I 




^not say also, a memory where the previous ones had been 

laid, since the deposition does not go on in regular suc- 

, cession, but now and then, yet so as to keep the edge 

..tolerably uniform in height ?) ; and a will to determine that 

I ^there it shall be put. But surely these are mental powers. 

. iYet mind animating an atom so small that your eyes 

strained to the utmost can only just discern the speck in 

the most favourable circumstances, as when you hold the 

glass which contains it between j^our eye and the light, so 

that the ray shall illumine the tiny form while the back- 

gTound is dark behind it ! 

It is a startling thought that there exists a world of 
animated beings densely peopling the elements around us, 
of which our senses are altoo-ether uncomisant. For 
six thousand years generation after generation of Rotifera 
and Entomostraca, of Infusoria and Protozoa have been 
living and dying, under the very eyes and in the very 
hands of man ; and, until this last century or so, he has 
no more suspected their existence than if " the scene of 
their sorrow " had been the rino^ of Saturn. Dr Mantell 


wrote a pretty book, the secondary title of which was " A 
Glimpse of the Invisible World." It was a book about the 
•Animalcules, which are revealed only by the microscope ; 
and though it gave little original information, and some of 



that unsound, yet, for the time, when the microscope was 
in far fewer hands than it is now, it contained much to 
interest and much to instruct. The minutely invisible 
world has now become tolerably familiar to most persons 
of education; and thousands of eyes are almost constantly 
gazing on the surprising forms of a^nimals and plants, 
which the microscope reveals. 

The study of one particular class of these organisms. 


the Diatoms, has become quite a fashion, and the reunions 
of our microscopists are almost exclusively occupied with 
the names, the scientific arrangement, the forms and 
sculpturings of these singular objects. I have already 
had occasion to mention them in relation to the important 
part they play in the economy of creation ; but it may not 
be amiss to devote a few words more to them, with the 
view to make the reader better acquainted with their 
general appearance. 

A flat pill-box or cylindrical tin canister, which is much 
wider than it is deep, will give a good idea of many of 
the Diatoms, such as A rachno discus. The top and bot- 
tom of the box are formed by flat circular glassy plates, 
called valves, and the sides by a ring or hoop of similar 
material. Sometimes the outline of the valves (with 

r ■ 

which the hoop agrees) is oval, or oblong, or square, or 
triangular, instead of circular ; and their surface is some- 
times convex in various degrees, but the side is generally 
upright, or in other words, the surface of the hoop passes 
in a straio^ht line from the edoje of one valve, whatever its 


outline, to that of the other. 



Here then is a box formed of pure transparent flint- 


glass, very thin and delicate, and very brittle. The 
.valves are marked with minute dots, which appear to be 
either knobs or pits ; or with lines, either depressed or 


raised. In the beautiful Arachnodiscus, both of these 
modes of sculpturing are present. Each valve is marked 
with a number of most delicate lines, which radiate from 


a central circle of dots to the circumference ; these radii 
are connected by a multitude of cross lines, bearing the 

..closest resemblance to the elegant webs spun by our 
common geometric spiders, whence the name given to the 

■ X 

genus ; while in the spaces marked out by these reticula- 
tions there are rows of minute round dots. Altogether, the 

effect of this complex pattern of sculpture is most charming, 
and is heightened by the brilliant translucent material in 
which it is wrought, which, as has already been observed, 
is like the purest glass. 

; J During life there is, in every individual, a small round 
body in the centre of the enclosed cavity, called the nucleus, 
and this is surrounded by irregular masses of yellowish 
substance, called the endocJirome, the nature of which is 
not very clearly ascertained. 



specimen, m- 

" . eluding the two valves and the hoop, with their contents, 

is called Sbfrustide. 

The manner in which these beautiful, but most minute 

atoms increase, is highly curious. The pill-box- like frus- 

tule becomes deeper by the widening of the hoop, thus 
. pushing the valves further from each other ; then across 

the middle two membranes form, which, by and by, from 



the deposition of flinty matter, become glassy valves, cor^ 
responding to the two outer valves, and then the whole 
frustule separates between these two new valves, and 
forms two frustules. The old hoop (in some cases at 
least) falls off, or allows the hoops of the new-made frus- 
tules to slip out of it, like the inner tubes out of a tele- 

Now, the separation of the frustules thus made is not 

always so complete, but that they remain adherent to one 
another, by some point of contact ; and hence arises a 
most singular and interesting appearance often presented 
by these bodies. Let us suppose that the original frustule 
was of the shape of a brick, and that by successive acts of 
self- division, it has formed itself into a number, say a 
dozen of bricks. These, of course, are laid one on another, 
forming a pile ; but all the individuals adhere to one 
another by a minute point at one corner, and the matter 
of adherence is sufficiently tenacious and sufficiently 


yielding to allow of the brick-shaped frustules moving 


freely apart in every point, except just the connecting 
angle. It is not the same corner that adheres all up the 
pile; more frequently opposite corners alternate with each 
other, yet not very regularly, and thus an angularly jointed 
chain of the little bodies is formed, which is very charac- 
teristic. In some species, in which the form is a lengthened 
oblong, the frustules have the faculty of sliding partially 

T I ■ 

over each other, and thus the chain resembles a series of 
long steps. 

Sometimes the frustules, perhaps of a graceful wedge- 







like outline, are attached at the end of long slender threads, 
which grow from a common point, and radiate in a beauti- 
ful fan-like manner ; at other times, the frustule is of an 

-i /■ '-' f T 

•irregular trapezoidal form, and is connected with its 

' * ^ *- 

fellows by a short intervenino; band. Perhaps the most 
coriimbn form of all is that of an italic f without the 

terminal dots, each frustule being unconnected with 


others. These have the power of spontaneous motion ; 

I ' -^ 

and it is very interesting to mark them creeping along in 
a vagrant, jerking manner over the field of the microscope, 
making no inconsiderable progress. 


There are, then, several circumstances which combine 

« ' ¥ 


to make , the economy of these creatures full of interest, 
and give them a strong hold on our imagination. 

1. Their inconceivable multitudes, and their universal 
distribution, especially in the waters of our globe, from 
the equator to the poles, or at least as near to them as 
man has been able to investigate, the everlasting glaciers 
of the icy seas being conspicuously stained with them. 

2. The vast part assigned to them in the economy of 

; - : 

creation, since, as we have seen, they not only enter largely 
into the composition of the solid crust of the globe, but 



sustain (mediately) the life of its very hugest creatures. 

3. The very great variety of forms assumed by the 
different kinds. 

4. Their marvellous elegance and beauty, consisting in 

J \ 

their material, their shapes, and their sculpturing. 

5. Their spontaneous movements, and the mystery 

• See supra, p. 101. 



which hano-s over the manner in which these are performed, 
a mystery which all the perseverance of hundreds of the 
best microscopists has not yet been able to dissipate. 
6. The power w^hich their structure possesses of taking 


up the siliceous matter held in solution in the waters, and 
forming of it solid flint, — a process which excites our 
wonder and which is quite beyond our comprehension. 

, The uncertainty which attends our conclusions as to 


their true character. Are they animals ? Are they plants ? 
The question .is still before the judges. Ehrenberg and 
other names of high eminence have set them down as 
animals, but the preponderance of modern opinion is in 

F ■ 

favour of their vegetable nature. And there are some 
who would fain make of them a fourth kingdom, neither 
animal, nor vegetable, nor mineral, but an independent 
group possessing affinities with all. 

8. Their minute dimensions. The actual size varies 
exceedingly, according to the species, between one-fiftieth, 
and one six- thousandth of an inch, or even wider limits. 
Perhaps, however, we may set down as an average size 
for an oblong frustule, a length of one-thousandth of an 
inch, and a width of one-five-thousandth ; that is, that if 
you could make a chain of them, set end to end, in contact, 
it would take a thousand specimens to measure an inch, 
while, if you made a row of them, side by side, five 
thousand would be required to fill the same extent. 

Highly attractive to a young observer is the variety of 
life which meets his eye, as he examines, with a good 
microscope, a drop of water from some pool rich in 





organisms. Suppose he has nipped off the growing ter- 
minal bud of some Myriophyllum or Nitella^ and, having a 
little broken it down with the point of a needle, has placed 
it in the animalcule-box of the instrument, with a small 
quantity of the water in which it grew, selected from the 
sediment of the pool-bottom. The amount of life at first 
is bewildering ; motion is in every part of the field ; 
hundreds and thousands of pellucid bodies are darting 


across, making a mazy confusion of lines. Some are mere 
immensurable points without apparent form or diameter ; 
others are definable and of exceedingly various shapes. 
Aggregations of little transparent pears,* clinging together 
by their stalks so as to form balls, go revolving merrily 
through their waste of waters. Presently one of the pears 
severs its connexion w^ith the family, and sets out on a 
voyage on its own individual responsibility ; then another 
parts company ; and you see that there are plenty more 
of the same sort, roving singly as well as in clusters ; 
little tops of clear jelly with a few specks in the interior. 
Here comes rolling by, with majestic slowness, a globe of 
glass, with sixteen emeralds imbedded in its substance, 
symmetrically arranged,-!* each emerald carrying a tiny 
ruby at one end ; a most charming group. Elegant 
forms,| resembling fishes, or battledores, or poplar-leaves, 
for they are of many kinds, all of a rich opaque green 
hue, with a large transparent orange- coloured spot, wriggle 
sluggishly by, the leaves now and then rolling themselves 
up spirally, and progressing in a cork-screw fashioa 

Uvella. i" Eudorina. % Ewjlena. 


Disks of clear jelly* are seen, which are continually altering 
their outline, so that you soon come to the conclusion 
that they have no particular form, but every imaginable 
one in turn. The mass, vi^hich seems a mere drop of thin 


glaire, almost or quite homogeneous, with only one or two 
bubbles in it, pushes out points and projections from its 
outline, excavates other parts, lengthens here, rounds off 
a j)oint there, and this as long as we look at it, so that it 
never appears twice in the same shape. Here a tiny 
atom-[- arrests the eye by its singular movements. Its 
appearance is that of an irregular ball, with a bright spot 
near the circumference ; the whole surface set with bristles 
projecting obliquely from the periphery, not perpendicu- 
larly, much thicker and stronger in the vicinity of the 

bright spot. It remains in one place spinning round 
and round upon its centre, sometimes so rapidly as to 
preclude any sight of its distinctive characters, at others 
more deliberately, displaying its bristles and surface. 
Sometimes it rolls over in all directions, as if to let us see 
that it is sub-spherical, not discoid. And now and then 
it takes a sudden spring sideways, to a distance perhaps 
twenty times its diameter, when it spins as before, or else 
skips about several times in succession. Altoo-ether this 
is a very active little merry-andrew. 

A great oblong purplish mass I comes rolling along, a 
very Triton among the minnows. He suddenly arrests Ids 
headlong course, makes his hinder-end take hold of a 
fragment of leaf, and unfolds his other end into an elegant 

Amceba. f Perhaps Trlchodina grandhidla. J Stentor. 

■ 1"- 






4 I 

■ ■ .5 





trumpet, with one portion of the lip rolled-in with a sort 
~ of volute, something like the beautiful African Arum or 
Calla. . ; The body now lengthens, and goes on lengthen- 
ing, until the lower part, which is adherent, is drawTi out 
to a very slender foot. The open mouth, studded round 
with a wreath of vigorous cilia in rapid rotatory motion, 
strikes us with a pleased surprise. The cilia are seen, 
like hooks, at those parts of the circle, which in perspec- 
tive are brouf)jht in or near the line of vision, either 

I fr 

turned outward or inward according as their motion is 
more or less rapid ; the other parts of the wreath being 
visible only as a thin film along the line of their points, 
and like little teeth at their bases. The obscure semi- 

^ J 

transparency of the texture of the animal renders it veiy 
difficult to discern the form of the trumpet-outline satis- 


time it appears as if 

but with 

a large round piece cut out of one side ; which yet has a 
thin filmy edge, as if the hiatus were covered by a trans- 
parent membrane. Then perhaps the mouth is turned 
slightly towards^ the eye, and this hiatus is no longer dis- 
cernible anywhere, but one part of the margin is rolled 

inwards spirally, but how 

other part j 


difficult to see. Then suddenly the orifice appears again, 
but as a large round hole cut out of the side, with the 
margin quite entire above it ; then in a moment this 
aperture is seen rapidly to contract, and close up to a 


But all these appearances, — the mystery of which 

so greatly heightens the interest of these creatures to a 

seem to depend on the presence of a 

young observer, 




- , 

contractile bladder wliich alternately fills and empties it- 
self, and, when distended, frequently displaces the coloured 
parenchyma or flesh, to such a degree that only the thin- 
nest film of transparent skin bounds it externally. 

The tuft of needle-like leaves, too, is full of life. To 

n I 

the outer ones are clinging multitudes of Diatoms in fans 


and fantastic chains ; and multitudes more of single ones 

are sprawling about the field, contrasting, by their slow, 

jerking progress, with the rapid, headlong dash of the 
animalcules. On the plant-stem, as if on solid ground, 
is fixed a beautiful tree,* with many slender, divergent 
branches, springing from a straight trunk. The branches 
bear, instead of leaves, elegant transparent bells or wine- 
glass-like vases, which are scattered thickly over them ; 
and each vase is furnished with a ring of cilia round the 
mouth, which rotates while it is open, but which at will 
can be withdrawn and quite concealed by the closing up 
of the mouth. Every moment one or other of the numer- 
ous branches contracts spirally, with force, like a wire- 
pring when weighted, and then deliberately straightens 
tself ao'ain. And, now and then, the main trunk itself 

-* +. 


contracts in the same manner, but less perfectly; and 
when it extends we may see a band running down 
through the middle of its pellucid substance, in which 
the contractile power manifestly resides, and which is 
probably of the nature of muscle. The eleo-ant vases 
have several globules of yellowish matter in their clear 
substance, which seem to be stomachs, or more correctly 




. ' .1 ;■ 

i "J 


- 1- 


temporary cavities for tlie reception of food ; for if a little 
indigo" or carmine be mingled with tlie drop of water, the 
ciliary rotation brings it to the mouth, and presently we 
see globules of a faint blue or pink hue appear in the 
colourless flesh, and these speedily augment the depth of 
their tint, as more and more of the pigment is imbibed, 
until they at length attain the richest deep blue, or full 

"^^ The observer may, perhaps, see also that most elegant 
of animalcules the Floscularia. A tube of jelly stands up 
from one of the leaves, so filmy and transparent, that one 
perceives it only by the sedimentary matters that have 
become entangled in its outer surface. It seems to be de- 
posited progressively,— a mucus excreted and thrown off 
by the skin of the tenant ; and hence the upper portion, 
being the most recently formed, is destitute of such ex- 
traneous substances, and can with the greatest difficulty 
be traced to its termination. Within this tube resides 


the beautiful constructor; a very slender foot or pedicle, 
capable of being drawn out to such a length as to equal 
that of the tube, and of being suddenly contracted at the 
pleasure of the animal, merges into an ovate body of 
translucent flesh, in which all the organs are clearly visi- 
ble. The upper portion expands into a most exquisite 
di&k or shallow cup of clear gelatinous membrane, having 
five angles, each angle being terminated by a rounded 
knob. Each of these five knobs is the seat of a pencil of 
long straight bristles, of the most subtle tenuity, which 
look as if they had been drawn out of the finest spun-glass. 




There may be perhaps fifty 
radiate from their common 
thev are graduated in lenf 

in each pencil, which 
all directions, and. as 

base in 

th. the effect of these hairs 

most charming. Any little shock, such as 


to the 

table, or the shutting of a door, alarms the beautiful crea- 
ture, and it suddenly closes up its elegant flower, and 
retreats into its tube, the hairs forming a cylindrical 
bundle as it goes down. It presently emerges again, how- 
ever, and unfolds its array as before. The pencils of 
hairs are carried quite motionless when expanded, but 
when the united bundle is in the act of protrusion, a kind 
of thrill, a quivering wave, is frequently seen to run 
throudi it from end to end. There is a wreath of rotat- 
ino; cilia on the face of the disk, the effect of which is to 
draw floating bodies around into its vortex; and the 
little giddy monads, that are whirling heedlessly along, 
may be seen to be thus entrapped by the living whirl- 
pool, one after another, and engulphed in the transparent 
prison. And there we may follow them with our eye, and 
watch their fate. Hurled round and round in the capa- 
cious crop, a pair of nipper-like jaws 
hold of them, gives them a squeeze, lets them go round 
again, presently seizes and nips them again, until, after 
a few preliminary bruisings of this sort, the ill-fated 
atom suddenly goes with a gulp down a kind of trap-door 
into the true digestive stomach, and is presently dimmed 
and lost in the mass. 



at length catches 

Several tiny creatures are labouring with the most 
praiseworthy industry among the close leaves of the plant. 


- i 


J 65 

Here is one which may remind us of a guinea-pig in its 

* '' 

general outline, but you must suppose the two hind-feet 

to be cnanged into a divergent fork, and the fore-feet to 


be obliterated * It is a most restless little rogue ; 


ing among 

the filamentous leaves of the Myriophyllum 

thr ou Q^h 


with incessant activity, he now pokes his way 

some narrow aperture, using his curious forked foot as a 

- I - 

• point of resistance, now pauses to nibble among the decay- 
ing rind, and now scuttles ofi" through the open water to 
some other part. We see his large eye, shining with the 

' colour of a ruby, and set, like that of Polyphemus, right in 


the middle of his forehead, and his curious apparatus of 
- jaws, the points of which are protruded from the front of 
' his head, ' and vigorously Worked, when he is grubbing 
'among the decaying vegetable matter, adding continually 

after morsel to the great mass of yellow-green 
■ food, which is already swelling out his abdomen to a pig- 
"' like plumpness. And when he swims away and gives a 
i fair view of his back to us, we notice the evolution of a 

pair of hemispherical swellings, one on each side of the 
'broad head, and which are evidently connected with his 


cilia, but they are more developed on these organs, which 

• are only pushed out at the will of the little animal, when 
'they form strong vortical currents. 

• ' - In another part of the bunch of leaves possibly a group 

The whole front is clothed with vibrating: 

• of Salpince may be feeding equally busily. 




fiomething like the former, but their bodies are inclosed 

* f 



Notommata lacinulata. 

* -h 


in a sort of shell or transparent case, much arched along 
the back, nearly straight along the belly, and hollowed 
out at each extremity. This shell is a very beautiful 
object, when we meet with it, as we often do, completely 
cleaned of the softer parts, the animal having died. It is 
hard, perfectly transparent, but marked all over with 
minute pits. It is closed on all sides, except before and 
behind, where, as I have said, it is cut away, as it were, 
for the egress of the head, and the forked foot : along the 
back it rises into two tall, longitudinal, sharp ridges wijli 
a deep furrow between them, and the appearance of this 
double ridge, from the perfect transparency of the material, 
has a curious effect as the animal moves about. Both 
before and behind, the ridges run out into projecting 
points, those of the front arching over the head like curv- 
ing horns. These little animals derive their nourishment 
likewise from the soft vegetable tissues, or the half-dis- 
solved matter that accumulates on the stems and leaves 
of the aquatic plants. On this they feed greedily, and 
nearly the whole of their time is spent in munching away 
this with the mouth. To do this the foot, which consists 
of two stiff unjointed styles, is brought into requisition. 
These are capable of being opened or closed like the feet 
of a pair of compasses, and of being brought round into 

any position through the flexibility of the base, which 
forms false or telescopic joints. The tips of these foot- 
styles are used as a pivot on which the animal moves ; 
they are placed perpendicularly to the stem, or other sub- 
stance, on which it means to crawl or feed, and the body 


is brought down horizontally, so that the head can touch 
' the same plane. Thus, without moving its points of 
1- support, the animal can reach a considerable extent of 

'surface with its mouth, either stretching forward until 
,, 'the feet are nearly horizontal, or drawing backward until 
a the points are under the belly. 

When I used the term " greedily " in describing its 
eating, it was rather with reference to the activity and 
apparent eagerness with which the little creature labours, 
than to the quantity actually devoured. This indeed is 

not very perceptible, though the jaws are continually 

thrust forward, and are opened and closed with untiring 

, perseverance and energy. Probably they are not capable 

i J of detaching more than the minutest particles, for the 

' effect produced is not the visible admission of atoms into 


: • the stomach, as in the former example, but the gradual 
discoloration of the viscera, which become stained with 
a yellowish olive hue, that grows more and more intense. 

: The large oval eggs of this animalcule may also be seen 
adhering to the leaves here and there, so large as to be 
nearly half as long as the whole animal ; they are beauti- 
fully symmetrical, are inclosed in a brittle transparent 
shell, and look like birds' eggs. If we watch an individual, 
, we may easily see an egg laid ; taking care to select one 
that is in the egg-producing condition ; a selection which 
the perfect transparency of the tissues enables us to make 
readily. The ovary occupies the ventral region, and when 
an egg is in process of development, its mass gradually 
becomes more and more opaque, and larger and larger, 

. F 


until nearly half of the bulk of the body is filled up with it. 
Then suddenly it is discharged, a soft and shell-less mass, 
but immediately on exclusion it takes its regular oval 
figure, and the integumpnt presently hardens into a shell. 
Patience, moreover, for a few hours will be rewarded 
by a sight of a living well-formed animal hatched from 
this new-laid egg. At first it remains so turbid as to be 
almost opaque ; but in the course of a couple of hours 
or so, it is perceptible that the contents are becoming 
pellucid flesh, and developing into organs and viscera, thj^ 
integuments and membranes becoming more and more 
manifest in their overlying infoldings. Another hour 
passes ; and now the action of the frontal cilia is discern- 
ible ; at first as faint fitful waves, which, however, become 
momentarily more vigorous, until at length their lashings 
are distinct and incessant. Meanwhile the eye has been 
coming into view, visible first as a pale red tinge in a 

particular spot near the middle of the egg, and gradually 

acquiring a definite outline, and a ruby-like translucent 
brilliancy. After this a little working action is perceived 
behind the eye, which shews that there the jaws are 
already developed, and that their proper muscles are 
assuming form and contractile power. About four hours 
have now elapsed since the egg was laid ; the movenents 
of the embryo are now vigorous, sudden, and spasmodic, 
the folds of the body-integument change their places, and 
the cilia work more rapidly. Presently, the oval form of 
the egg undergoes a slioht alteration : it becomes more 

elliptical, and then slightly constricted in the middle 




apparently by the pushing outwards and inflating of the 
two extremities of the body. At this moment a white 
line flies round the anterior end of the egg : it is a crack, 
and the next instant the separated portion of the egg-shell 
is pushed offj and the head protrudes, the cilia waving 

* t * ' 

nimbly in the water. A moment the new-born young 
sits in the shell as in a nest ; but now it glides forth, 


and we see that in every point of form and structure it 
is the very counterpart of its parent, the shell, the foot, 
all the internal viscera, being perfect and comme ilfaut 
i. The. shells in which these little creatures are enveloped 
are models of symmetry and elegance, and display great 
variety of form. Some of them are sculptured in curious 
and beautiful patterns, an elaboration which is truly sur- 
prising when we think of the invisible minuteness of the 
entire creature. One is clothed * with a shell of the 
usual glassy mail, nearly circular in outline, very flat, 
but a little arched on the back aspect, the chin hollowed 
out in a semicircle, and the brow armed with two horns 
curving downward ; the posterior extremity square, with 

two lateral spines. The entire surface of this shell is 
covered with minute elevated points, which extend even to 
the horns and spines; and besides these, the dorsal sur- 

■ V 

face is marked with elevated ridges, which form a regular 
raised pattern, impossible to describe by words, but of 
curious symmetry, forming three perfect pentagonal areas, 
and parts of eight others surrounding them. 

This kind of sculpturing is most, remarkable in a little 

* Noteus quadrkoiifiis. 


active geirns * which, being wholly without the foot com- 
mon to this class of animals, is always found swimming, 
being apparently incapable of resting, or, at least, of 
crawlino-. The group contains many species, and most of 
them have their shells ornamented with some synmietrical 
variation of the surface. In one,t a ridge runs down the 
middle of the back, dividing the shell into two equal 
lateral portions, each of which is subdivided into about 
ten polyhedral areas by intervening ridges, of which no 


two are alike in form, though each corresponds accurately 
with its fellow on the opposite side. The form of each 
area is constant in every individual. In another, J the 
medial line is occupied by five areas, of which the first is an 
imperfect hexagon, the second is square, and the posterior 
three are hexagons ; from the salient angles, other ridges 
run off sidewise, and form other imperfect polygons. In 
■others, § the division is into many hexagonal tesselations, 
•varied with other forms in the outer or hinder areas 
^according to the species, and having the peculiarity that 
the dividing ridges are well-defined narrow elevations 
armed -throughout with conical points in single row. 

I may be accused of exaggeration in presuming all these 
-creatures to be seen in one drop of water. I do not pre- 
tend to be depicting them from one single actual observa- 
tion ; at the same time I may say that I have described 
nothing but what I have personally observed; and I 
have known many small pools and other collections of 


A 71 ur(£{i. f A . tecta. J J . curvicom is. ' 


* -j" 

> ' 


v^ater, sufficiently rich in organic life to afford examples of 


quite as many species as I have enumerated, aye, and 
many more, in a single dip taken at random, though all 
might not appear in the live-box at one time. However, 
the point is, these and hundreds of others are easily ob- 
tainable, and cannot fail to delight the observer. The 
Variety is almost endless. 

. Scarcely anything more strikes the mind with wonder 
than, after having been occupied for hours, perhaps, in 
'watching the movements and marking the forms of these 
and similar creatures, till one has become quite familiar 
with them, suddenly to remove the eye from the instru- 
ment, and taking the cell from the stage, look at it with 

the naked eye. Is this what we have been looking at ? This 
quarter-inch of specks, is this the field full of busy life ? 
are here the scores of active creatures feeding, watching, 

preying, escaping, swimming, creeping, dancing, revolv- 
ing, breeding ? Are they here? Where? Here is nothing, 
■absolutely nothing, but two or three minutest dots which 
■the straining sight but just catches now and then in one 
particular light. 

'' Truly, the world which we are holding between our 
finger and thumb — this world in a globule of water — this 
world of rollicking, joyous, boisterous fellows, that a pin's 
point would take up, is even more wonderful than the 
shoals of whales that wallow in Baffin's Bay, or the herds 
of elephants that shake the earth in the forests of Ceylon. 

Truly, -the great God who made them is maximus in 

vnninas i 




Every naturalist can recall certain incidents in his com- 

rid ^m 

munion with nature, which have impressed themselves 
upon his imagination with a vividness that the lapse of 


wise effaces, and which he feels 

will be 


effaced. They came upon him with a poW'er which at the 
moment burnt-in the image of each in his remembrance ; 
and there they remain, and must remain while memory 
endures, ever and anon starting up with a palpable clear- 
ness that is all the more observable from the ever increas- 
ing dimness and vagueness into which the contemporary 
impressions are fading. They form the great landmarks 
of his life : they stand out like the promontories , of some 
long line of coast, bold and clear, though the intervening 
shore is lost to view. : 

Every close observer of natural phenomena is familiar 
with such memorabilia, and those know them best whose 

J ■ 


minds are most poetic in temperament, most disposed tu 
receive pleasurable emotions from that which is new or 
strange, or noble, or beautiful. Each has his own ; he 

n w 

will fail, perhaps, to communicate to another the same 

J r 

impressions when he communicates the facts, because the 
balo with which the particular object or incident is in- 


THE CHUCK- will's WIDOW. 173 

vested in his remembrance, depends very greatly on the 
idiosyncrasy of his own mind, or on some peculiar condi- 
tions of thought or feeling with which that particular 
object was associated. That which sent such a thrill of 

■ ; 

* delight through your heart, is to him a mere fact, and 


perhaps a fact of very little value. For the thing may be 
a very little matter in itself ; it is the time, the place, the 
association, the anticipation that makes it what it is. Let 
me adduce a few examples. 

r 1 

■ Living for years in Newfoundland and Canada, Wilson's 
American Ornithology had become almost as familiar to 


me as my alphabet, and when at length I travelled into 
the Southern States, many of the birds which do not ex- 
tend their visits to the north had become objects of eager 


interest to mp. Prominent among these was that night- 
jar* whose nocturnal utterances are thought to repeat 
the words, " chuck- will's widow." I kno\ not what made 
this particular bird so interesting ; perhaps the singularly 

1 - . f 

true resemblance to the human voice of its cry ; perhaps 


the solemn hour of its occurrence, for night-sounds have 
alwaj^s an element of romance about them ; perhaps the 
rarity tDf a sight of the bird; perhaps the superstitions 
with which it is invested ; perhaps all of these combined ; 

■ J 


or perhaps none of them ; — -I cannot tell ; but so it was : 
I ardently desired to hear the chuck- will's widow, 

I went to the South, and arrived in the hill-country of 
Alabama as spring was merging into the early summer. 
I had not been domiciled many days, when one night I 

^ ■ - - . . . . 

* Capnmulgus CaroUnensis. 



174 THE Ml^MOilABLE. 

1 ' 

remained sitting at the open window of my bedroom, long 
after the household had retired to bed. It was a lovely 
niHit • a thunder-storm had just passed, which had cleared 

and cooled the air ; the moon was in the west, and the 
stars were twinkling ; the rain-drops still hung upon the 

sparkling as 

the beams fell on them ; the large 

white blossoms of a catalpa tree were conspicuous just 
under my window, and gushes of rich fragrance came up 
from a clematis which thickly covered the trellis-work of 
the ladies' arbour. The solemn forest, with its serried 
ranks of primeval trees, girdled-in the little garden, and 
lay dark and vague beyond. It was too early for the 
noisy cicadse that in the later summer make the woods 
ring with their pertinacious crinking, and not a sound 
broke tlie profound silence. Every element was poetry, 
and my mind was in a state of quiet but high enjoyment. 
It wanted but a few minutes of midnight, when suddenly 
the clear and distinct voice of the chuck-will's widow rose 
up from a pomegranate tree in the garden below the win- 
dow where I was sitting, and only a few yards from me. 
It was exactly as if a human being had spoken the words, 
" chuck— widowwidow.'^ I had not been thinking of this 
bird, but of course I recognised it in a moment, and a 
gush of delight and surprise went through me. I scarcely 
dared to breathe, lest any sound should alarm and drive it 
away, and my ears were strained to catch every intonation 
uttered. It continued to repeat its singular call at inter- 
vals of a few seconds for about half an hour, when another 
from a little distance answered, and the two pursued their 



• I 

I ■- 




occupation together, sometimes calling alternately, some- 
times both at the same instant. By and by, a third further 
off in the forest joined them, and the first flew away. The 
spell was broken, and I went to bed ; but even in sleep 
the magic sounds seemed to be ringing in my ears. 

A very vivid 

of deh'ght was produced 

in my 

mind on my visit to Jamaica, by the sight of Heliconia 
Gharitonia. The appearance of this fine butterfly is so 
totally diff'erent from that of any of the species with which 
Ihad been familiar, — the form is so peculiarly intertropical, 
so associated with the gorgeous glooms of South American 
scenery, — that nothing like it had occurred to me either in 
Europe, or in any part of the northern continent. I first 
saw it fluttering, slowly and fearlessly, over a great thicket 
of Opimtia in full flower, itself a memorable object to be- 
hold. The beauty and singularity of the form, the very 

of the winofs, so lonix and 

so narrow, 

remarkable shape 

the brilliant contrasts of colour with which they are 
adorned, lemon-yellow and velvety black in bands, and 
the very peculiaj flapping of these organs in flight, as if 
their length rendered them somewhat unwieldy, altogether 

I subsequently 
' saw it under circumstances which greatly heightened the 
interest with which I had first beheld it. 
- Passing along a rocky footpath on a steep, wooded 

took a strong hold on my imagination. 

mountain-side, my attention was attracted, just before 
sunset, by a swarm of these butterflies in a sort of rocky 
recess, overhung by trees and creepers. They were about 
twenty in number, and were dancing to and fro exactly 



in the manner of gnats, or as the ghost-moth • in England 
plays at the side of a wood. After watching them awhile, 
I noticed that some of them were resting with closed 


the extremities of one or two depending 

One after another fluttered from the group of dancers to 
the reposing squadron, and alighted close to the others, so 
that, at length, when only about two or three of the fliers 
were left, the rest were collected in groups of half a dozen 
each, so close together that each group might have been 
grasped by the hand. When once one had alighted it 
did not in general fly again, but a new-comer, fluttering 
at the group, seeking to find a place, sometimes disturbed 
one recently settled, when the wings were thrown open, 
and one or two flew up again. As there were no leaves 
on the hanging stalks, the appearance presented by these 
butterflies, so crowded together, their long erect wings 
pointing in difierent directions, was not a little curious. 
I was told by persons residing near, that every evening 
they thus assembled, and that I had not seen a third part 
of the numbers often collected in that spot. 

Another sight which I can never forget is the swarming 
of Urania Sloanus around a blossoming tree at sunrise. 
This is one of the most gorgeously beautiful of butterflies, 
its broad wings and body being arrayed in a dress of 
rich velvet black and emerald green, arranged in transverse 
bands, with a broad disk of ruddy gold, the whole spark- 
ling with a peculiar radiance, like powdered gems. It is, 
besides, an insect of unusual interest to the philosophic 
entomologist, because it is one of those transitional forms 




by.whicli great groups 

are linked together. 

Every one 

would say, on looking at it, that it is a butterfly, and yet 
it possesses the technical characters of a moth. 
. . At a certain season, in Jamaica, viz., in the first week 

regularity, this 


The avo9ada 

o o 

of April, with very accurate 

insect suddenly appears in great numbers. 

pear, a kind of LaiiruSy whose fruit is much esteemed, is 

then in blossom, and is the centre of attraction to these 

butterflies. As the approaching sun is casting a glow of 

gold over the eastern sky, one after another begins to 

come, and by the time the glorious orb emerges from the 

horizon, the lovely living gems are fluttering by scores, or 

even by hundreds, around some selected tree. The level 

sunbeams, glancing on their sparkling wings, give them a 

lustre which the eye can scarcely look upon ; and, as they 

dance in their joyousness over the fragrant bloom 

in the evolutions of playful combats, or mount up on the 

wing to a height of several hundred feet above the tree, 


they constitute, in that brief hour of morning, a spectacle 
which has seemed to me worth years of toil to see. 

K I may allude to one more memorable incident in my 
own natural-history experience, it shall be the interior of 


a forest in thq mountains of Jamaica. From the almost 


iiisuflPerable glare of the vertical sunshine, a few steps 
took me into a scene where the gloom was so sombre, 
heightened doubtless by the sudden contrast, — as to cast 
a kind of awe over the spirit. Yet it was a beauteous 
gloom, — rather a subdued and' softened light, like that 


which prevails in some old pillared cathedral when the 




sun's rays struggle through the many-stained glass of a 
painted window. Choice plants that I had been used to 
see fostered and tended in pots in our stove-houses at liome, 
were there in wild and riant luxuriance. The very carpet 
was a dense Lycopodium, of most delicate tracery, cast 
thick over the prostrate tree-trunks, and the rugged 
masses of rock ; and elegant ferns were arching out of 
the crevices. Enormous towering figs and Santa- Marias 


were seen here and there, venerable giants of a thousand 


years at least, whose vast trunks pierced through the 
general roof of quivering foliage, and expanded far above, 

■^^ - ►. ^ 

while from the crevices of their rough bark, and from th( 
forks of the lesser trees curious and elegant parasites 

I ^i \ 

— wild pines, ferns, orchids, cactuses, pothoses,— were 


clustering in noble profusion of vegetable life. These 
trees, too, were connected and laced together by long 


leaves, just as the masts of a ship are laced with the 
various stays, braces, and halyards ; some of them stout 

- ^ ■ 

and cable-like, others mere slender cords, passing to and 
fro, hanging in loops, or loosely waving in the air. 

Yet amidst all this mao^niticence of veo^etation, there 


that took so strong a hold on my 

tion as the arborescent ferns. To see these plants, whose 
elegant grace I had so often admired in our Eno-lish 

wr J 

unified that the crown of out-curving fronds 

shaded an area of twenty feet in diameter, and yet pre- 
serving all the voluptuous lightness and minute sub- 




F ^ 
J _ 



^-' r'i 


_- f 

r * 

*+ K 

7 4 

- r '1 

"> > 


H I 

V • 


'^ ^ - - - Vv -^ 


1 >.. 


■ h 


, f 

^ * 


division which are so characteristic of these plants, and 
this feathery diadem of leaves reared on the summit of a 




-m i-^ 

< H 

^ r ^ ' 




V. .-v' r- 

. * 




stem as. high as its own width ; 

to stand under the 

upwards on the filigree-fretted 


•beautiful arch and gaze 

fronds that formed a great umbrella of verdure, 
;Was most charming, and never to be forgotten. 
! The eloquent p3n of Charles Darwin has revivified for 
us, with a peculiar charm,, the impressions made on his 
refined and poetic mind by the strange scenes of other 

. His first experiences of the forests of South 



America he has thus recorded :— " The day has passed 
delightfully. Delight itself, however, is a weak term to 
express the feelings of a naturalist, who, for the first time, 


has wandered by himself in a Brazilian forest. 

elegance of the 

grasses, the novelty of the parasitical 
plants, the beauty of the flowers, the glossy green of the 
foliage, but, above all, the general luxuriance of the 
•vegetation, filled me with admiration. A most paradoxi- 
cal mixture of sound and silence pervades the shady parts 
of the wood. The noise from the insects is so loud, that 
it may be heard even in a vessel anchored several hundred 
yards from the shore ; yet within the recesses of the 
forest a universal silence appears to reign. To a person 

' * 

h n 

fond of natural history, such a day as this brings with it 
a deeper pleasure than he can hope to experience again."* 
'. Again, at the close of his eventful voyage, he thus 
reverts to the same scenes: — "Such are the elements of 
the scenery, but it is a hopeless attempt to paint the 



general efiects. Learned naturalists describe these scenes 
of the tropics by naming a multitude of objects, and men- 

* Naturalist* s Voyage, ch. i. 

' !- 



tioninfy some characteristic feature of each. To a learned 
traveller this, possibly, may communicate some definite 
idea ; but who else, from seeing a plant in a herbarium, 
can imagine its appearance when growi] 
^oil ? Who, from seeing choice plants in a hothouse, can 
niao-nify some into the dimensions of forest-trees, and 
crowd others into an entangled jungle? Who, when 
examining, in the cabinet of the entomologist, the gay. 

exotic butterflies, and singular cicadas, will associate with 
these lifeless objects, the ceaseless harsh music of the 
latter, and the lazy flight of the former, — the sure accom- 
paniments of the still, glowing noonday of the tropics? 
It is when the sun has attained its greatest height, that 
such scenes should be viewed : then the dense, splendid 
foliage of the mango hides the ground with its darkest 
shade, whilst the upper branches are rendered, from the 
profusion of light, of the most brilliant green. In the 
temperate zones the case is different : the vegetation there 
is not so dark or so rich ; and hence the rays of the 
declining sun, tinged of a red, purple, or bright yellow 
colour, add most to the beauties of those climes. • 

" When quietly walking along the shady pathways, and 
admiring each successive view, I wished to find lanouaoe 

o — » 

to express my ideas. Epithet after epithet was found too 
weak to convey to those who have not visited* the inter- 
tropical regions the sensations of delight which the mind 
experiences. I have said that the plants in a hothoiise 
fail to communicate a just idea of the vegetation, yet I 
must recur to it. The land is a great, wild, untidy, 



luxuriant hothouse, made by Nature for herself, but taken 
possession of by man, who has studded it with gay houses 

and formal gardens. 

How great would be the desire of 

every admirer of nature to behold, if such were possible, 
the' scenery of another planet ! yet to every person in 
Europe it may be truly said that, at the distance of only 
a few degrees from his native soil, the glories of another 
world are opened to him. In my last walk, I stopped 
"again and again to gaze at these beauties, and endeavoured 
to fix in my mind for ever, an impression which at the 
time I knew sooner or later must fail. The form of the 
orange-tree, the cocoa-nut, the palm, the mango, the tree- 
fern, the banana, will remain clear and separate ; but the 
thousand beauties which unite these into one perfect scene 


mdst fade away ; yet they will leave, like a tale heard in 
childhood, a picture full of indistinct, but most beautiful 


4 ( 

; -The late James "Wilson made his first acquaintance 
with the storks of Holland under very impressive circum- 
stances. One summer evening, of a beautifully calm and 
serene character, he had sauntered into a churchyard, and 
found himself, when the sun had set, and the dim twilight 
was fading into darkness, alone. All was solemnly still, 
as became the scen,e ; not a sound being audible to dis- 
turb the perfect solitude and silence with which he was 
surrounded. . Suddenly, a soft and winnowing sound in 
the air attracted his attention, and, looking up, with invo- 
luntary thoughts of angels and' spiritual visitants, he saw 

• V ' 4 * 

I ' t 

I^ifl., ch. \xL 

t ■ 




two wliite-winged beings hovering in the air, who presently 
descended and alighted close to his feet. They were 
storks ! attracted, doubtless, to the moist and rank herb- 
ao-e by the expectation of a plentiful repast on insects and 
sluo-s which the dews had drawn abroad. To have found 
a living man, where they had been accustomed to find 
only the dead, seemed to disturb them, however ; for they 
presently spread their ample wings, and mounted to the 
spire, where, perched, they gave utterance to their wild 
and singularly plaintive cries, which added greatly ito those 
impressions of loneliness and seclusion that the incident 
had already inspired. No wonder that the naturalist 
could never afterwards behold a stork without havins: 
presented to his imagination, in vivid force, that startling 
rencontre in the graveyard of Delft. * 

Very few persons capable of appreciating the interest 
of the spectacle have ever beheld the gorgeous bird of 
paradise in his remote equatorial forests. The land in 

which it dwells is still a terra 

^gnita to science. 

Nearly all the world has been laid open to the perseve 


of modern explorers ; 
is of New Guinea, and 

but the sullen ferocity ot the 
their hostility to strangers, 

keep us to this day in ignorance of the largest island of 

world. A few g 

at the 

venturous travellers, who, well 

coast, obtained by ad- 

med, have penetrated a 
mile or two from the sea, have only served to whet curio- 
sity, and to stimulate desire for an acquaintance with the 
productions in which it appears so rich. 

♦ Hamilton's Memoirs of Wilson, p. 33. 




Specimens of the birds of paradise had found their 
way to Europe, through the native traders of the Oriental 
Archipelago, and their surpassing gorgeousness of plumage 
had disposed the credulous to receive the fabulous narra- 
tions with which their history was invested. Gradually 
the'se absurdities were exploded ; but still no naturalist 
had ever beheld the birds in native freedom, till M. Lesson, 
the zoologist attached to one of the French explo 
peditions, touched at the island. He diligently used the 
few days' stay he made on the coast, and obtained a score 
of the birds. Thus he narrates his first observation of 


the living gem : 

" Soon after my arrival in this land of promise for the 


naturalist, I was on a shooting excursion. Scarcely had 

g r 

I walked some hundred paces in those ancient forests, the 
daughters of time, whose sombre depth was perhaps the 
most magnificent and stately that I had ever seen, when 
a bird of paradise struck my view ; it flew gracefully, and 


in undulations ; the feathers of its sides formed an ele- 
gant and aerial plume, which, without exaggeration, bore 
no remote resemblance to a brilliant meteor. Surprised, 
astounded, enjoying an inexpressible gratification, I de- 
voured this splendid bird with my eyes ; but my emotion 
was so great that I forgot to shoot at it, and did not 


recollect that I had a gun in my hand till it was far 


" * 

The bright spot in the memory of Audubon, the enthu- 
istic biographer of the birds of America, was the dis- 

• Voy. de la Coquille. 

r* * 


covery of the fine eagle which he has named " the Bird of 
Washington/' "It was on a winter's evening/' he ob- 
serves, "in the month of February 1841, that, for the 
first time in my life, I had an opportunity of seeing this 
rare and noble bird, and never shall I forget the delight it 
gave me. Not even Herschel, when he ' discovered the 
famous planet which bears his name, could have expe- 
rienced more happy feelings ; for to have something new 
to relate, to become yourself a contributor to science, 
must excite the proudest emotion of the human heart. 
We were on a trading voyage, ascending the upper Mis- 
sissippi ; the keen winter blasts whistled over our heads, 
and the cold from which I suffered had, in a great degree, 
extinguished the deep interest which, at other seasons, 
this river has been wont to awake in me. I lay stretched 
beside our patroon ; the safety of the cargo was forgotten ; 
and the only thing that called forth my attention was the 
multitude of ducks, of different species, accompanied by 
vast flocks of swans, which from time to time would pass 
us. My patroon, a Canadian, had been engaged many 
years in the fur-trade : he was a man of much intelli- 
gence, who, perceiving that these birds had engaged my 
curiosity, seemed only anxious to find some new object 
to divert me. The eagle flew over us. * How fortunate ! * 
he exclaimed ; 'this is what I could have wished. Look, 
sir ! the great eagle ; and the only one I have seen since 
I left the lakes/ I was instantly on my feet ; and having 
observed it attentively, concluded, as I lost it in the dis- 
tance, that it was a species quite new to me." 



- h was not till some years afterwards that he had an 


opportunity of seeing this noble bird again. On the face 
of a precipice was the nest of what the country-people 
called the " brown eagle," and some peculiarities in the 
situation induced the ornithologist to hope that it might 
be the species of which he was in quest. He determined 
to see for himself. " In high expectation/' he continues, 
" I seated myself about a hundred yards from the foot of 
the rock. Never did time pass more slowly. I could not 



help betraying the most impatient curiosity, for my hopes 
whisp'ered it was the great eagle's nest. Two long hours 


had elapsed before the old bird made his appearance, 
^vhich was announced to us "by the loud hissings of the 
two young ones, who crawled to the extremity of the hole 
to receive a fine fish. I had a perfect view of this noble 
bird, as he held himself to the edging rock ; his tail 
spread, and his wdngs partly so, and hanging something 


like' a bank swallow. I trembled lest a word should 
escape from my companions — -the slightest murmur had 
been treason frorh them ; they entered into my feelings. 


and, although little interested, gazed with me. In a few 

w — ■ 

minutes the other parent joined her mate, which, from the 
difierence in size, (the female being much larger,) we 


knew to be the mother-bird. 

She also had brought a 


fish ; but, more cautious than her mate, ere she alighted, 
she glanced her quick and piercing eye around, and in- 
stantly perceiving her procreant bed had been discovered, 
■ '^e dropped her prey, with a loud shriek communicated 
the alarm to the male, and, hovering with him over our 



> . 


heads, kept up a growling, threatening cry, to intimidate 
us from our suspected design." 

Tempestuous weather prevented access to the nest for 
several days, at the end of which time it was found that 
the young had been removed by the parents. " I come 
at last to the day I had so often and so ardently desired. 
Two years had gone by since the discovery of the nest, 
but my wishes were no longer to remain ungratified. I 
saw one day one of these birds rise from a small inclosure, 
where some hogs had been slaughtered, and alight upon 
a low tree branching over the road. I prepared my 
double-barrelled piece, which I constantly carry, and went 
slowly and cautiously towards him ; quite fearless, he 
awaited my approach, looking upon me with an undaunted 
eye. I fired, and he fell ; before I reached him he was 
dead. With what delight I surveyed this magnificent 
bird ! I ran and presented him to my friend, with a 
pride which those can only feel, who, like me, have 
devoted their earliest childhood to such pursuits, and 
have derived from them their first pleasures ; to otherS;, 
I must seem ' to prattle out of fashion." " * 

I have already mentioned my ovm first acquaintance 
with one of the nightjars ; the reader may be pleased to 
have the particulars of a nocturnal interview with our 

native species, as sketched by a plain but trustworthy 

- * 

observer, a thorough out-of-door naturalist.f It occurred 
under somewhat romantic circumstances. The worthy 

Mag, Nat 





man had t 


tions; and 

holiday from his metropolit 



m occupa- 
of it, had determined to 

spend a summer night sub dio. By sunset he found him- 
self many miles from London, in a field in which the new- 
made hay was ready for carrying. No human being was 
near, and so he threw two of the haycocks into one, at 
the edge of a wood, and " mole-like, burrowed into the 
middle of the hay," just leaving his head exposed for a 
little fresh air, and free for any observations he might 
make under the light of the unclouded moon. In such a 
soft, warm, and fragrant bed, sleep soon overcame him, 

-< ■ 

till he awoke with a confused idea of elves, sprites, fairies 
and pixies, holding their midnight dances around him. 

'?>•"■ ({ 

I had not been long again 

settled," he says. 

\t ■ 

on my 

grassy couch, reflecting upon my wild, fantastic dream, with 
all its attendant revelry, when my attention was drawn to 

It re- 
sembled, at times, the whirring, rapid rotation of a wheel, 
how swelling, now diminishing, the sounds intermixed with 
curring and croaking notes, some of the sounds having a 

the singular, wild, ringing strain of the fern-owl. 


' ventriloquial effect; there was now and then a sharp, 
unearthly kind of shriek ; presently there were the same 
sounds issuing from other quarters of the wood, until the 
whole place was ringing with the wild nocturnal notes. 
As daybreak advanced, I could see the fern-owls (there 
were at least from four to six birds,) hawking for moths, 
chasing and pursuing each other, and sweeping along with 
surprisingly sudden turns and tumblings. As I sat motion- 
less, with my head just above the surface of the haycock, 




I had a good view of their proceedings ; the birds were 
continually snapping at the numerous small moths which 
were hovering over the heaps of hay. The birds are not 
v\jry shy when pursuing their prey, for they would glide 
along close by me ; amidst the gloom one could see them 
loomino- in certain positions, as a ship at sea is sometimes 

to be seen in the night-time. At times the fern-owls 
would suddenly appear close to me, as if by magic, and 
then shoot off, like meteors passing through the air. 
"The spectral and owl-like appearance, the noiseless, 


wheeling flight of the birds as they darted by, would 
almost persuade one that he was on enchanted ground. 
Spell-bound, whilst witnessing the grotesque gambols of 
this singular bird, there only wanted Puck, with his elfin 

crew, attendant fairies, &c., in connexion with the aerial 
flights of the fern-owl, to have made it, as it was to me, a 
tolerably complete ' Midsummer Night's Dream,' especially 
as the fever of my night -haunted imagination had not 
as yet vanished. As it was, I was delighted with this 
nocturnal and beautiful scene from nature, and I wished 
at the time that some of our museum naturalists had been 
with me, to have shared the pleasure that I felt." * 

The entomological cabinets of Europe have long counted 
as one of their most prized treasures, a gorgeous butterfly 
named Ornithoptera Priamus. Linnaeus named those 
butterflies which are included by modern naturalists under 
the family Papilionidce, Equites ; and he divided them 
into Greeks and Trojans, naming each individual species 

* Zoo%tsf, p. 3650. 




after some one of the Homeric lieroes, choosing a name 
from the Trojan list, if black was a prominent colour, as if 
mourning for a defeat, and from the Greeks if the prevail- 
ing hues were gay. The one I speak of was called after the 
king of Ilium, because it was the finest species of the butter- 
fly then known. It is found only in Amboyna ; its elegant 
wings expand fully eight inches, and they are splendidly 


coloured with the richest emerald green and velvety black. 
Other species of the same noble genus have recently 
been discovered in the same Archipelago ; but the Trojan 
monarch remained without a rival. About a year ago, 
however, Mr A. R Wallace, an accomplished entomologist, 
and one who has had a greater personal acquaintance 
than any other man of science, with tlie Lepidoptera of 

the very 

richest regions 

of the globe — Brazil, and the 

Indian Isles, — announced by letter the discovery and 
capture of a ' still more magnificent species. 


- 1 

arrived at Batchian, one of the isles of the eastern part of 
the Archipelago, on an entomological exploration, he pre- 
sently caught sight of a grand new Ornithoptera, which, 
though the specimen was a female, and escaped capture, 
gave promise for the future. At last the expected capture 
was made, and Mr Wallace thus records his emotions on 
the occasion ; — -emotions, it must be remembered, of no 
tyro, but of a veteran insect-hunter. 
? : '' I had determined to leave here about this time, but 
two circumstances decided me to prolong my stay : first, 
I succeeded at last in taking the magnificent new Orni- 
thopfera, and, secondly/, I obtained positive imformation 

+ X- 




. ^ 



h - 

of the existence here of a second species of Paradisea, 
apparently more beautiful and curious than the one I 
have obtained. You may, perhaps, imagine my excite- 
ment when, after seeing only two or three times in three 
months, I at length took a male Ornithoptera. When I 
took it out of my net, and opened its gorgeous wings, I 


was nearer faintino: with delioht and excitement than I 

o ..-— -o 

have ever been in my life ; my breast beat violently, and 
the blood rushed to my head, leaving a headache for the 
rest of the day. The insect surpassed my expectations, 
being, though allied to Friamus, perfectly new, distinct, 
and of a most gorgeous and unique colour ; it is a fiery, 
golden orange, changing, when viewed obliquely, to 
opaline-yellow and green. It is, I think, the finest of 
the Ornitlio'pterce, and, consequently, t\iQ finest butterfly in 
the world I Besides the colour, it differs much in mark- 
ings from all the Priamus group. Soon after I first 
took it, I set one of my men to search for it daily, giving 
him a premium on every specimen, good or bad, he takes ; 
he consequently works hard from early morn to dewy eve, 
and occasionally brings home one ; unfortunately, several 
of them are in bad condition. I also occasionally take 
the lovely Papilio Telemachus." * 

The sight of so noble an aquatic plant as the gigan- 
tic Victoria regia, the rosy-white water-lily of South 
America, reposing on one of the glassy igaripes of the 
mightiest river in the world, must be an incident cal- 
culated to excite enthusiasm in any lover of the grand or 

* Zoologist, p. 6621. 



the ilea atif 111 in nature. Thus speaks Schomburgk, to 
whom we owe our knowledge of this magnificent plant, 
arid its introduction to the aquaria of Europe. " It was 
on the 1st of January 1837, while contending with the 


* F 

difficulties which, in various forms, nature interposed to 
bar our progress up the Berbice River, that we reached a 
spot where the river expanded, and formed a currentless 
basin.- Something on the other side of this basin 
attracted my attention ; I could not form an idea what 
it mig'lit be ; but, urging the crew to increase the speed 
of their paddling, we presently neared the object which 
had roused my curiosity, and lo ! a vegetable wonder ! 
All disasters were forgotten ; I was a botanist, and I felt 
myself rewarded." 

Mr Bridges, too, in the course of a botanical expedi- 
tion in Bolivia, speaks of the delighted surprise with 
^hich he first gazed on the lovely queen of water-lilies. 
" During my stay in the Indian town of Santa Anna, 
observes this traveller, "in June and July 1845, I made 
daily shooting excursions in the vicinity, and on one 


occasion I had the good fortune, while riding along the 
wooded banks of the Yacuma, a tributary of the Mamor^ 
to arrive suddenly at a beautiful pond, or rather small lake, 
embosomed in the forest, where, to my delight and sur- 
prise, I descried for the first time the queen of aquatics, 
Victoria regia I There were at least fifty flowers in 
. . view ; and Belzoni could not have been more enraptured 
with his Egyptian discoveries, than was I, on beholding 

* Bot. Mag., 3847. 


M 1 


this beautiful and novel sight, which few Englishmen can 
have witnessed. Tain would I have plunged into the 
lake to obtain specimens of the splendid flowers and 
foliage ; but the knowledge that these waters abounded 
with alligators, and the advice of my guide, deterred me."* 
In the travels of Mungo Park in the interior of Africa, 
he is said to have been at one time so exhausted by 
fever, and so depressed with his forlorn and apparently 
hopeless condition, that he had lain down to die. His 
eye, however, chanced to light on a minute moss,-f" with 
which he had been familiar in his native Scotland. The 
effect on him was magical ; the reflection instantly occur- 
red, that the same Divine hand which made that little 
plant to grow beneath that burning clime was stretched 
out in loving care and protection over him ; and, smiling 
amidst his tears, he cast himself on the love of his hea- 
venly Father, and was comforted. We may well believe 
that the sight of the fork-moss would ever afterwards 
call up a vivid recollection of that desolate scene, and 
that he could never look on it without strong emotion. 

If it should be thought that some of the incidents and 
objects which I have adduced as examples of the memor- 
able, are mean and slight, and far less worthy of notice 
than multitudes of other things that might have been 
selected, I would suggest that what makes them worthy 
of remembrance is not their intrinsic value, but their con- 
nexion with the thoughts of the observer ; a connexion 

Lo7id. Joimi. of Botany, iv., p. 571. f Dicranum Irijoides, 

A naturalist's enthusiasm. 


.^ k 

which cannot be commanded nor controlled. Why one 


man should have a powerful longing to behold a certain 
sort af butterfly or to hear a particular bird, when he 
cares nothing about the lion or the elephant ; why a fern 
should fill one mind with strong emotion, and a spray 
of moss another, while the magnificent palm leaves both 
unmoved, we can give no reason but those peculiarities 
of thought and feeling which constitute the individuality 
of minds. Yet, that such is the fact, every admirer of 
nature who has an element of poetry in his soul will 
admit. He well knows that the distinct and promi- 
nent points in memory, those which invariably start up 
in association with certain scenes, are by no means 
those — at least, not invariably or necessarily — which 
are of most intrinsic importance, but such as to an- 
other will often seem trivial and destitute of aesthetic 

' i ■■ The desire," says Humboldt, " which we feel to behold 
certain objects is not excited solely by their grandeur, 
their beauty, or their importance. In each individual this 
desire is interwoven with pleasing impressions of youth, 
with early predilections for particular pursuits, with 
the inclination for travelling, and the love of an active 
life. • In proportion as the fulfilment of a wish may 
have appeared improbable, its realisation affords the 
greater pleasure. The traveller enjoys, in anticipation, 
the haj)py moment when he shall first behold the constel- 
lation of the Cross, and the Magellanic clouds circling 
over the South Pole ; when he shall come in sight of 





the snow of the Chiraborazo, and of the column of 
smoke ascending from the Volcano of Quito ; when, for 
the first time, he shall gaze on a grove of tree-ferns, or 
on the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean. The days on 
which such wishes are fulfilled mark epochs in life, and 
create indelible impressions ; exciting feelings which 


require not to be accounted for by a process of reason- 




Views of Nature, p. 41 ?• 


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There are regions where the presence of man is a thing 

so totally out of experience, that the wild animals manifest 

no sort of dread of him when he does by accident intrude 

on their solitude. In the Galapagos Islands, perhaps the 

most singular land in the world, all the animals 

quite devoid of the fear of man. Cowley, in 1684, 

observed that the doves there "were so tame that they 
would often alight on our hats and arms, so as that we 

could take them alive." Darwin saw a boy sitting by a 

well with a switch, with which he killed the doves and 

finches as they came to drink. He had abeady obtained 

a heap of them for his dinner, and he said he had been 

constantly in the habit of doing this. The naturalist 

himself says that a mocking-bird alighted on the edge of 

a pitcher which he held in his hand, and began quietly to 

sip the water ; — that a gun is superfluous, for with the 

muzzle he actually pushed a hawk off the branch of a 

tree : in fact, all the birds of the islands will allow them- 

selves to be killed with a switch, or even to be caught in 

a hat. 

Other naturalists have noticed the extreme tameness 


of many kinds of birds at the Falkland Islands ; where, 


though they take precautions against the attacks of foxes, 
they appear to have no dread of man. Formerly they were 
more confiding than at present. When the Isle of Bourbon 
was discovered, all the birds, except the flamingo and 


goose, were so tame that they could be caught with the 
hand ; and on the lone islet of Tristan d'Acunha in the 
Atlantic, the only two land-birds, a thrush and a bunting, 
were so tame as to suffer themselves to be caught with ' a 
hand-net. I have myself had large and beautiful butter- 
flies come and suck at flowers in my hand, in the forest- 
glades of North America. 

Cowper has finely used this phenomenon to heighten 
the desolation of a solitary island, when he makes Sel- 
kirk, on Juan Fernandez, complain. 

" The beasts that roam over the plain. 
My form with indiflference see; 
They are so unacquainted with man ; 
Their tameness is shocking to me/' 

But these facts are only local and partial exceptions to 
a general rule. They can in nowise be allowed to set 
aside the prevalence of that pristine law, by which God 
covenanted to implant a terror of man in all the inferior 
creatures, even those which are far stronger than he. 
" And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon 
every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, 
upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the 
fishes of the sea."* Often have I seen, and marked with 
wonder, the excessive vigilance and jealonsy with which 

* Gen. ix. 2. 



I* ^ 

fishes watch the least approach of man. Often have I 
stood on ' a rock in Jamaica, and seen the little shoals 

come., playing 

and nibbling at 

my feet, apparently all 

unconscious of the monster that was watching them ; but 
the least movement of the hand towards them was 


sufficient to send them like arrows in all directions. And 
.how often have I been tantalised by the excessive prudence 


of some fine butterfly that I eagerly desired to capture, 


-when, day after day, I might see the species numerous 
enough at a particular part of the forest, and by no means 
shy of being seen, playing in the air, and alighting con- 
tinually on the leaves of the trees, and continuing there, 


■opening and closing 

their beauteous wings in the 


and rubbing them together with the most fearless uncon- 




I walked to and fro with upturned face 
yet invariably taking care to keep themselves just 


out of the, reach of my net ! 

This power of judging of actual danger, and the free- 
and-easy boldness which results from it, are by no means 
* uncommon. Many birds seem to have a most correct 
^notion of a gun's range, and, while scrupulously careful 

to keep beyond 

confine their care to this caution, 



' though the most obvious resource would be to fly quite 

■away out of sight and hearing, which they do not choose 

• to do. And they sometimes appear to make even an 

ostentatious use of their power, fairly putting their wit 

and cleverness in antagonism to that of man, for the 

i 4 

'benefit of their fellows. I lately read an account, by a 


.naturalist in Brazil, of an expedition he made to one of 




.' •■: 




the islands of the Amazon to shoot spoonbills, ibises, and 
other of the magnificent grallatorial birds, which were 
most abundant there. His design was completely bafSed, 
however, by a wretched little sandpiper, that preceded 
him, continually uttering its tell-tale cry, which at once 
aroused all the birds within hearino;. Throudiout the 


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day did this individual bird continue its self-imposed duty 
of sentinel to others, effectually preventing the approach 
of the fowler to the game, and yet managing to keep out 
of the reach of his gun. 

There is, however, in some animals, a tendency to seek 
safety in an entire avoidance of the presence of man ; a 
jealous shyness which cannot bear to be even looked at, 
and which prompts the creature to haunt the most recluse 
and solitary places. This disposition invests them with a 
poetic interest. The loneliness of the situations which 
they choose for their retreats has in itself a charm, and 
the rarity with which we can obtain a glimpse of them in 
their solitudes makes the sight proportionally gratifying 
when we can obtain it. 

The golden eagle seeks for its eyrie, the peak of some 
inaccessible rock, far from the haunts of man, whose do- 


main it shuns. Here it forms its platform-nest, rearing 
its young in. awful silence and solitude, unbroken even by 
the presence of bird or beast ; for these it jealously drives 
from its neighbourhood. The bald eagle of North Ame- 
rica achieves the same end by selecting the precipices of 
cataracts for its abode. Lewis and Clarke have described 


Expedition, l, p. 264, 



tlie picturesque locality of the nest of a pair of these 
birds amidst the grand scenery of the Falls of the Mis- 


souri. Just below the upper fall there is a little islet 
in the midst of the boiling river, well covered with wood. 
Here, on a lofty cotton-wood tree, a pair of bald eagles 

1- ~ 

had built their nest, the undisputed lords of the spot, to 

whose dominion neither man nor beast would 


venture across the gulf which surrounds it, the awfulness 
of their throne being further defended by the encircling 
mists which perpetually arise from the falls. 
• Our own wild -duck or mallard is a shy bird, avoiding 
the haunts of man, and resorting to the reedy margins of 
some lonely lake, or broad reach of a river. The summer- 
diick of America has similar habits, but more delights in 
woods. I have often been charmed, when standing by 
the edge of some darkling stream, bordered with lofty 

trees that so 

hang the water as nearly to meet 

leaving only a narrow line of sky above the centre of the 
river, with the sight of the coy summer-duck. When 
the western sky is burning with golden flame, and its 
gleam, reflected from the middle of " the dark, the silent 
stream," throws into blacker shadow the placid margins, 
then, from out of the indistinct obscurity, a whirring of 
wings is heard, and the little duck shoots plashing along 
the surface into the centre, leaving a long V-shaped wake 
behind her, till, rising into the air, she sails away on 


rapid pinion till the eye loses her in the sunset glow. 

On other occasions we trace the same bird far up in 

the solitudes of the sky, breaking into view out of the 




objectless expanse, and presently disappearing in the same 
blank. We wonder whence it came ; whither it is going. 


Bryant's beautiful stanzas, though well known, will bear 


repetition here : 




While glow the heavens with the last steps of day; 
Far through their rosy depths^ dost thou pursue 

Thy solitary way ? 

Vainly the fowler's eye 
Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong, 
As, darkly painted on the crimson sky, 

Thy figure floats along. 

Seek'st thou the plashy brink 
Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide, 
Or where the rocking billows rise and sink 

On the chafed ocean side ? 






There is a Power whose care 
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast,- 
The desert and illimitable air, 

Lone wandering, but not lost. 


AV day thy wings have fann'd. 
At that far height, the cold, thin atmosphere. 
Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land, 

Though the dark night is near. 


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And soon that toil shall end. 

■- I ♦ - 

■ ■ • 

Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest, : %§ 

And scream among thy fellows ; reeds shall bend. 

Soon, o'er thy sheltered nest. 


Thou'rt gone, the abyss of heaven 
Hath swallowed up thy form ; yet, on my heart, 
Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou hast given, ' - 

And shall not soon depart. 

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He who, from zone to zone, 


Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight. 
In the long way that I must tread alone. 

Will lead my steps aright. 

The ostrich is remarkably shy and wary. A native of 
wide sandy plains, its stature enables it to comraand a 
wide horizon, while its great fleetness makes the chase 
a most severe exercise. *' When she lifteth herself on 
high, she scorneth the horse and his rider." The rlieas, 
which are the representatives of the ostrich in South 
America, inhabit regions presenting many of the charac- 
teristics of the African plains, and have much the same 
habits. They are extraordinarily vigilant, and so swift of 
foot, that it is only by surrounding them from various 
quarters, and thus confusing the birds, who know not 
whither to run, that the Gauchos are able to entangle 
them with the bolas or weighted cord. Mr Darwin says 
that the bird takes alarm at the approach of man, when 
he is so far off as to be unable to discern the bird. 

Ancient writers mention a species of ox as inhabiting 
the forests of Europe, which they call the urus. It is 
described as being of a most savage and untameable 
disposition, delighting in the most wild and recluse parts 
of the forest, of vast size and power. It is generally 
believed that this race is preserved in some semi- wild oxen 
of a pure white colour, which inhabit one or two extensive 
woodland parks in the northern parts of our own island. 
It is interesting to observe the effect which the presence 
of man produces upon these animals. On the appearance 



of any person, the herd sets off at full gallop, and, at the 
distance of two or three hundred yards, they make a wheel 
round, and come boldly up again, tossing their heads in a 
menacing manner ; on a sudden they make a full stop, at 
the distance of forty or fifty yards, looking wildly at the 
object of their surprise ; but, upon the least motion being 
made, they all again turn round and fly off with equal 
speed, but not to the same distance ; forming a shorter 
circle, and ao;ain returning with a bolder and more 


threatening aspect than before, they approach much 


nearer, probably within thirty yards, when they make 


another stand, and again fly off; this they do several 
times, shortening their distance, and advancing nearer, 
till they come within ten yards ; when most people think 
it prudent to leave them, not choosing to provoke them 


further ; for there is little doubt but, in two or three turn 
more, they would make an attack. 

The cows and calves partake of this jealous seclusion. 
When the former bring forth, it is in some sequestered 
thicket, where the calf is carefully concealed until it is 


T ^ 

able to accompany its dam, who, till that time, visits it 
regularly twice or thrice a day. Should accident bring a 
person near the secret place, the calf immediately claps its 
head upon the ground, and seeks concealment by lying 
close like a hare in its form. A hidden calf of only two 
days old, on b.'iiig disturbed, manifested its inborn wild- 
ness in a remarkable manner. On the stranger stroking 
its head, it sprang to its feet, though very lean and very 
weak, pawed two or three times like an old bull, bell o wet] 


very loud, stepped back a few paces, and bolted at his 

legs with all its force; it then began to paw again, 
bellowed, stepped back and bolted as before. The observer, 

,4 -. ,f .. .^ . ^ 


however, now knowing its intention, stepped aside, so that 
it missed its aim and fell, when it was so very weak that it 


could not rise, though it made several efforts to do so. But 
it had done enough ; the whole herd had taken the alarm, 
and, coming to its rescue, obliged the intruder to retire. 

In the forests of Lithuania there yet linger a few herds 
of another enormous ox, which at one time roamed over 



the whole of Europe, including even the British Isles 

■ > 

the European bison. The great marshy forest of Bialo- 
wicza, in which it dwells, is believed to be the only ex- 
ample of genuine primeval or purely natural forest yet 
remaining in Europe, and the habits of the noble ox are 

!■ ■ ; L ■ ■ ■ - ' _ 

in accordance with the prestige of his ancient domain. 

J - 

A few years ago the Czar of Eussia presented a pair 
of half-grown animals of this species to the Zoological 

of London; and a very interesting memoir on 
their capture, by M. Dolmatoff, was published in their 
Proceedings. A few extracts from that paper will illus- 
trate the seclusion of their haunts and manners. " The 

^ F 

day was magnificent, the sky serene, there was not a 
breath of wind, and nothing interrunted that calm of 
nature which was so imposing under the majestic dome 
of the primitive forest. Three hundred trackers, sup- 

by fifty hunters, had surrounded, in profound 
silence, the solitary valley where the herd of bisons were 


found. Myself, accompanied by thirty other hunters,, 

^^ J*H -' 1 ^K 



the most resolute and skilful, had penetrated in Indian 
file the circle, advancincr with the utmost precaution, and 

Arrived at the margin of the 


H * 

almost fearing to breathe. 

valley, a most interesting spectacle met our eyes. 
herd of bisons were lying down on the slope of a hill, 
ruminating in the most perfect security, while the calves 
frolicked around the herd, amusing themselves by attack- 
ing one another, striking the ground with their agile 
feet, and making the earth fly into the air ; then they 
would rush towards their respective dams, rub against 
them, lick them, and return to their play. But at the 
first blast of the horn the picture changed in the twink- 

ling of an 


The herd, as if touched with a magic 

wand, bounded to their feet, and seemed to concentrate 
all their faculties in two senses, those 

two senses, those of sight and hear- 
The calves pressed timidly against their mothers. 
Then, while the forest re-echoed with bellowini^s, the 


bisons proceeded to assume the order which they always 
take under such circumstances, putting the calves in 
front to ffuard them 



them from the attack of pursuing dogs, 
them before. When they reached the 

pied by 

and hunters, they were 


ceived with loud shouts and discharges of guns, 
ately the order of battle was changed; the old bulls 
rushed' furiously towards the side, burst through the line 
of the hunters, and continued their victorious course, 

^ H 

boundino^ alonof, 

and disdaining to 

occupy themselves 

with their enemies, who were lying close against the g 


The hunters managed, however, to, separate from 


■_ 1 


the herd two calves; one of these, three months old, was 
taken at one effort, another of fifteen months, though 
seized by eight trackers, overturned them all, and fled." 
It was subsequently taken, as were five others, in another 
part of the forest, one of them only a few days old. The 
savage impatience of man manifested by these young 
sylvan s, was in the ratio of their age and sex. The bull 
of fifteen months maintained for a long time its sullen 
and morose behaviour ; it became furious at the approach 
of man, tossing its head, lashing its tail, and presenting 
its horns. After a while, however, it became tolerant of 
its keeper, and was allowed a measure of liberty.* - 

■ All the kinds of deer are shy and timid, but that fine 
species the moose of North America is peculiarly jealous 
and suspicious. The Indians declare that he is more shy 


and difficult to take than any other animal ; more vigilant, 


more acute of sense, than the reindeer or bison ; fleeter 
than' the wapiti, more sagacious and more caution.- 
than the deer. In the most furious tempest, when the 
wind, and the thunder, and the groaning of the trees, and 
the crash of fallino; timber, are combininsj to fill the ear 
with an incessant roar, if a man, either with foot or hand, 
break the smallest dry twig in the forest, the Indians 
aver that the moose will take notice of it ; he may not 


instantly take to flight, but he ceases to eat, and con- 
centrates his attention. ^ If, in the course of an hour or 
so, the man neither moves nor makes the slightest noise, 
the animal may begin to feed again ; but he does not forget 

i' ■■ • . . ... ^ -■ 

♦ Proc. Zool. Soc, 1848, p. IG. 


what attracted his notice, and for many hours manifesta 
an increased watchfulness. Hence, it requires the utmost 
patience of an Indian hunter to stalk moose successfully. : 
The Indians believe that this animal, when other re-? 
sources fail, has the power of remaining under water for 
a long time. It may be an exaggeration growing out 


of their experience of the many marvellous devices which 
he occasionally practises for self-preservation, and in 
which they believe he is more accomplished than the fox^ 
or any other animal. A curious story is told, which may 
serve to illustrate the reputation of the beast in the eyes 
of those children of the forest, if it be worth no more. If 
there is any truth in it, we must assume that the animal 
managed to bring his nostrils to the surface at intervals ; 

but how he could do this so as to elude the observation 
of his hunters is the marvel. Eor it must be borne in 
mind that they were Eed Indians, not white men. 

Two credible Indians, after a long day's absence on a 
hunt, came in and stated that they had chased a moose 
into a small pond ; that they had seen him go to the 
middle of it and disappear, and then, choosing positions 
from which they could see every part of the circumference 
of the pond, smoked and waited until evening ; during all 
which time they could see no motion of the water, or 
other indication of the position of the moose. r 

At length, being discouraged, they had abandoned all 
tiope of taking him, and returned home. Not long after- 
wards came a solitary hunter, loaded with meat, who re- 
nted, that haviuff followed the track of a moose for some 


distance, lie liad traced it to the pond before mentioned ; 
but having also discovered the tracks of two men, made 
at the same time as those of the moose, he concluded they 
must have killed it. Nevertheless, approaching cautiously 


to 'the margin of the pond, he sat down to rest. Presently, 
he saw the moose rise slowly in the centre of the pond, 
which was not very deep, and wade towards the shore 
where he was sitting. When he came sujQficiently near, 
he shot him in the water. 

\ i:The manner of huntinsj moose in winter is also illus- 
trative of his recluse disposition. Deer are taken exten- 
sivcly by a process called " crusting ; " that is, pursuing 
them, after a night's rain followed by frost has formed a 
crust of ice upon the surface of the deep snow. This 
will easily bear the weight of a man furnished with 
racJcets, or snow-shoes, but gives way at once under the 
hoof of a moose or deer ; and the animal thus embar- 
rassed is readily overtaken and killed. 

The moose, though occasionally taken by " crustin 


seems to understand his danger, and to take precautions 

against it. 

jMiThe sagacious animal, so soon as a heavy storm sets 
in, begins to form what is called a " moose-yard,'* w4nch 
is a large area, wherein he industriously tramples down 
the snow while it is falling, so as to have room to move 
about in and browse upoij the branches of trees, without 
the necessity of wandering from place to place, struggling 
through the deep drifts, exposed to the wolves, who, being 


+ K'. 

of lighter make, hold a carnival upon the deer 



time. No wolf, however, dares enter a moose-yard. He 
will troop round and' round upon the snow-bank which 
walls it, and his howling will, perhaps, bring two or three of 

his brethren to the spot, who will try to terrify the moose 
from his vantage ground, but dare not descend into it. 


The Indians occasionally find a moose-yard, and take 
an easy advantage of the discovery, as he can no more 
defend himself or escape than a cow in a village pound. 
But, when at liberty, and under no special disadvantage, 


the moose is one of the noblest objects of a sportsman's 
ambition, at least among the herbivorous races. < His 
habits are essentially solitary. He moves about not like 
the elk, in roving gangs, but stalks in lonely majesty 


through his leafy domains ; and, when disturbed by the 
hunter, instead of bounding away like his congeners, he 

n r 

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off at a ffait which, thoujrh faster than that of the 

j^lA.1.1/ .f^xvyxi, I-XIVI*- 

fleetest horse, is so easy and careless in its motion that it 
seems to cost him no exertion. But, thouf^h retreatinof 


thus when pursued, he is one of the most terrible beasts 

-V- ' 

-' -J -r : '■■ 

of the forest when wounded and at bay ; and the Indians 

_■ I 

of the north-west, among some tribes, celebrate the deatt 
of a bull-moose, when they are so fortunate as to kill one, 
with all the songs of triumph that they would raise over 
a conquered warrior.* . 

Who has not read of the chamois of the Alps and the 
Tyrol ? and who does not know with what an 
vigilance it maintains its inaccessible strongholds? As 
long as summer warms the mountain air, it seeks the 

♦ Hoffmann's Fwest and Praine, i., p. 92. 




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loftiest ridges, ever mounting higher and higher, treading 
with sure-footed fearlessness the narrow shelves, with pre- 
cipices above and below, leaping lightly across yawning 
chasms a thousand yards in depth, and climbing up the 
slippery and perilous peaks, to stand as sentry in the 
glittering sky. Excessively wary and suspicious, all its 
senses seem endowed with a wonderful acuteness, so that 
it becomes aware of the approach of the daring hunter 
when half-a-lea<2:ue distant. When alarmed, it bounds 

;ain a sight of every 

from ledcre to ledge, seeking to 


quarter, uttering all the while its peculiar hiss of impa- 
tience. .. At length it catches a glimpse, far below, of the 
enemy whose scent had come up upon the breeze. Away 
now it bounds, scaling the most terrible precipices, jump- 
ing across the fissures, and leapin 
with amazing energy. Even a perpendicular wall of rock 
thirty feet in depth does not balk its progress: with 
astonishino; boldness it takes the leap, striking the face of 

(^ from craii: to craoj 

the rock repeatedly with its feet as it descends, both to 

e violence of the shock, and to direct its course 
urately.' Every danger is subordinate to that of 


proximity of man, and every faculty 


to the indomitable love of liberty. Hence the chamois is 
dear to the Swiss : he is the very type of their nation ; and 
his unconquerable freedom is the reflection of their own. 

The character of this interesting antelope, as well as that 
of the scenery in which it dwells, are so pleasantly touched 
in a little poem that I have lately met with, by Miss Crewd- 
son, that I make no apology for quoting it at length : 



In a sunny Alpine valley 

'Neath the snowy Wetterhoru, 
See a maiden, by a chalet, 

Playing with a Gemz^ fawn. 
How he pricks his ears to hear her, 

How his soft eyes flash with pride, 
As she tells him he is dearer 

Than the whole wide world beside ! 
Dearer than the lambkins gentle, 

Dearer than the frisking kids. 
Or the pigeon on the lintel, 

Coming — going — as she bids. 
Dearer than the first spring lily. 

Peeping on the snowy fell; 
Dearer than his little Willie 

To the heart of William Tell 

By a gushing glacier fountain, 

On the giant Wetterhorn, 
'Midst the snow-fields of the mountain. 

Was the little Gemze born : 
And his mother, though the mildest 

And the gentlest of the herd, 
Was the fleetest and the wildest. 

And as lightsome as a bird. 
But the gazer watch'd her gliding 

In the silence of the dawn, 
Seeking for a place of hiding. 

For her little, tender fawn; 
So he mark'd her, all unheeding 

(Swift and sure the bolt of death) ; 
And he bore her, dead and bleeding. 

To his Alpine home beneath. 

1 * 

4 A 



* In all the German-Swiss cantons, and throughout the Tyrol, the 
Chamois is called the " Gemz^ ; " the other name, " Chamois," prevailing 
only in those cantons in which French is spoken. 

' \ 

THE GEMZfi FAWN. 2 1 1 

And iho orphan Gemz^ follows, 
Calling her with plaintive bleat, 

O'er the knolls and through the hollowh. 
Trotting on with trembling feet. 



F ■- 

See, the cabin latch is raised 

By a small and gentle hand. 
And the face that upward gazed 

Had a smile serene and bland ; 
Bertha was the Switzer's daughter. 

And herself an orphan child ; 
But her sorrows all had taught hor 

To be gentle, kind, and mild. 
You might see a tear-drop quivering 

In her honest eye of blue. 
As she took the stranger, shivering. 

To her heart so warm and true. 


*^/ will be thy mother, sweetest," 

To the fawn she whisper'd low ; 
'^ I will heed thee when thou bleateet. 

And will solace all thy woe/' 
Then the tottering Gemz6, stealing 

Towards her, seem'd to understand, 
Gazing on her face, and kneeling, 

Placed his nose within her hand 1 

Every day the Switzer 


Every night the fawn is laid on 
Moss and ling beside her bed. 


» - I 

Is the ribbon round his throat, 
Where a little bell doth tinkle 

With a shrill and silvery note. * 
When the morning light is flushing 

Wetterhom so cp Id and pale. 
Or when evening shades are hushing 

All the voices of the vale, 
You might hear the maiden singing 

To her happy Gemzd fawn. 


While the kids and lambs she's bring 
Up or down the thymy lawn. 

Spring is come, and little Bertha, 

With her chamois at her side. 
Up the mountain wander'd further 

Than the narrow pathway guide. 
Every step is paved with flowers : 

Here the bright mezereon glows; 
Here the tiger-lily towers, 

And the mountain cistus blows ; 
Here the royal eagle rushes 

From his eyrie overhead ; 
There the roaring torrent gushes 

Madly o'er its craggy bed. 
Hark ! — from whence that distant bleating^ 

Like a whistle clear and shrill ? 
Gemz^ ! Ah, thy heart is beating. 

With a wild and sudden thrill ! 
Voices of thy brothers, scouring 

Over sparkling fields of ice, 
Where the snow-white peaks are towering 

O'er the shaggy precipice. 

Bertha smiled to see him listening, 
(Arching neck, and quivering ear. 

Panting chest, and bright eyes glistening,) 
To that whistle wild and clear. 


Little knew she that it sever'd 
All that bound him to the glen. 

That her gentle bands are shiver'd, 
And the tame one — mild again/ 

To the next wild bleat that soundeth, 
Makes he answer strong and shrill; 

Wild as wildest, off he boimdeth 
Fleet as fleetest o'er the hill. 
*' Gemz^ ! Gemz^ ! Kommt, mein lieber !*' 
Echoes faint, from height to height : 



+ * 

^ * 


* Come, my darling ! 



Dry tliy tears, sweet Hertha! never 

Will lie glance again in sight. 
But, when paling stars are twinkling 

In the twilight of the morn, 
Thou may*st hear his bell a-tinkling 

'Midst the snows of Wetterhorn. 
And the kindness thou bestowest 

On the helpless, thou shalt prove, 
Somehow, when thou little knowest, 

In a blessing from above ! 

S ' 

An interesting scene of recluse life is exhibited Ly many 
a little pool in tropical America, such as I have seen in 
Jamaica, and such as I have seen, too, in the parts of the 


northern continent bordering on the tropics. You pene- 
trate the sombre woods perhaps for miles, and suddenly, 
in the midst of the most perfect quietude, you see a great 
light, and open upon an area occupied by a green level, 
which, from indications here and there, you perceive to be 
water, covered with a coat of vegetation. The lofty trees 
rise up in closely-serried ranks all around, from the very 
margin, and their long branches, as if rejoicing in the 
nnwonted room and light, stretch out over the water, and 
dip their twigs into it. The long, pendent strings of 
parasites hang down, and lightly touch the surface, 
whipping the floating duck-weed aside when a storm 
agitates the e^reat trees. From time to time, one and 


another have been prostrated before the tempest, and, 
fulling into the pond, ^project their half-decayed trunks 
in great snags from the sluggish surface, or form piers, 
whxh stretch away from the banks into the midst of the 
lake, and precarious bridges across different portions. 



If we make our way by the starlight of the eai 
morning to such a forest-pond as this, arriving silently 
and cautiously at its margin, before the light of the 
advancing dawn has yet struggled into the little inclosure, 


and take our station behind the shelter of a leafy bush, 
we shall discern that the spot is instinct with life. A 
loud clanging cry is uttered, like the note of a child's 
trumpet, which is immediately taken up in response from 
the opposite side of the pool. Then a whirring of wings, 
and much splashing of water. More of the loud clangours, 
and more splashing ; and now the increasing light enables 
us to discern a dozen or a score of tiny black objects 
sitting on the surface, or hurrying to and fro. They 
look like the tiniest of ducks, but are jet black ; some are 
sitting on the points of the projecting snags; and, by their 

* F ' 

erect attitude, we readily recognise that they are grebes. 

Now it is light enough to see clearly, and the suspici- 
ous birds do not yet seem to be aware of our presence. 
Yonder, on the branch of a half-submerged tree, is a great 
dark mass, and a little bird sitting in it ; it must surely 
be her nest. We must examine it. 

Yet, stay' What is that serpent-like object that so 
quietly sits on yonder overhanging bough ? Is it indeed 



a black snake reposing, with elevated neck, upon the 
horizontal limb ? It moves ! It is a bird ! The lithe and 
slender neck is thrown round, and we see the head and 
beak of a bird, which begins to preen and arrange the 
plumage of a black body, which is squatted close to the 
bouoh. Mark that sudden start ! The neck is elevated 




to the utmost ; the head is raised in an attitude of atten- 

\ — 

tion ; and the bird remains in the most absolute stillness. 

It was that leaf that we rustled, in the nervousness of our 

-^ ^ \ 

desire to see him more distinctly; he heard it, and is on 
the watch. Lo, he is gone ! he dropped, like a stone, per- 

into the pool below; and yet not like a 
stone, for he made no splash, and we are amazed that so 
large a body could be immersed from so great a distance, 
and yet produce scarcely a perceptible disturbance of the 

*- '-' 

.; . The little grebes, too, have taken the warning ; they are 
gone, all but the faithful mother on the nest. She yet 
lino-ers ; but we shew ourselves, and advance ; and now 
she jumps into the green water, and disappears ; and all 
^ is as still and sombre as if we were gazing on a grave. 

In our sequestered rural districts we have a little ani- 
mal not uncommon, almost the tiniest of all quadrupeds, 

h "^ 

the water-shrew, whose graceful form and pleasing habits 
are very seldom seen, because of its cautious timidity. 
With great care it may, however, be occasionally detected 
m its gambols, and, with due precaution, watched. The 
followino^ charminor picture of the little creature at free- 

-\ ^i^ f ' *^ • 

dom, all unconscious of observation, has been drawn by 
Mr Dovaston : — " On a delicious evening, far in April 
1825, a little before sunset, strolling in my orchard, be- 
side a pool, and looking into the clear water for insects 
I expected about that time to come out, 1 was surprised 
by seeing what I momentarily imagined to be some very 
large beetle, dart with rapid motion, and suddenly dis- 

■'1 1 6 THE EECLUSE. 

appear. Laying myself down, cautiously and motionless, 
on the grass, I soon, to my delight and wonder, observed 
it was a mouse. I repeatedly marked it glide from the 
bank under water, and bury itself in the mass of leaves 
at the bottom ; I mean the leaves that had fallen off the 
trees in autumn, and which lay very thick over the mud. 
It very shortly returned, and entered the bank, occasion- 
ally putting its long, sharp nose out of the water, and 
paddling close to the edge. This it repeated at very 
frequent intervals, from place to place, seldom going 
more than two yards from the side, and always returning 
in about half a minute. I presume it sought and 
obtained some insect or food among; the rubbish and 
leaves, and retired to consume it. Sometimes, it would 
run a little on the surface, and sometimes, timidly and 
hastily, come ashore, but with the greatest caution, and 
instantly plunge in again. r 

" During the whole sweet spring of that fine year I con- 
stantly visited my new acquaintance. When under water 
he looks gray, on account of the pearly cluster of minute 
air-bubbles that adhere to his fur, and bespangle him all 
over. His colour, however, is very dark brown." . . . . • 

After entering into some descriptive details of the speci- 
men, Mr Dovaston proceeds : — *' This minute description I 
am enabled to give, having caught it in an angler's landing- 
net, and carefully inspected it in a white basin of water. 
The poor creature was extremely uneasy under inspection, 
and we soon, with great pleasure, restored it to liberty 
and love, for he had a companion, which, from her paler 



colour- and more slender form, we doubted not was his 
mate, and we were fearful, by our intrusion, of givino; 
ofifeiice to either. 

'■-" He swims very rapidly; and though he appears to dart, 
his very nimble wriggle is clearly discernible. He is never 
seen till sunset ; but I saw him every evening I watched, 
with the most perfect facility. They are easily discovered 
about the going down of the sun, on still evenings, by the 



undulating semicircles quickly receding from the bank of 
the pool, when they are dabbling at the side. I believe 
this to be the animal said to be so long lost in Euoland, 

the water-shrew (Sorex fodiens of Pennant) .... 

'••I have said he only appears at evening, and such 
are his habits. Once, at broad and bright noon, while 


leaning on a tree, gazing on the sun-sparkles passing 
(like fairy lights) in numberless and continual succession 
under the gentlest breath of air, I was aware of my little 
friend running nimbly on the surface among them. My 
rapture caused me to start with delight, on which he 
vanished to .security, within his rush-fringed bank. . . . 
I should have mentioned that, on very still evenings, when 
my ear was close to the ground, I fancied I heard him 
utter a very short, shrill, feeble sibilation, not unlike that 
of the grasshopper-lark, in mild, light summer nights, 
but nothing near so loud, or long continued. Though I 

have watched for him jvarily in that and other . places, 
after having, to the end of May, contributed to the 
myriads of my amusements, I never saw him more/' * 

. - ♦ Mag. Nat. Hist., ii., p. 21 9. 



i ■ ; 

- J 


Has my reader ever been present at the capture of a 
shark ? If he has crossed the line, or even if he knows 

_ ♦ ■ 

what it is to spend a week or two in "the calm latitudes," 
the debateable border-sea between the ordinary breezes 
and the trades, he is no strano^er to the assiduous atten- 
tions of this lank and lithe tenant of the tropical seas. 


Jack familiarly calls him by the title of " Sea-lawyer/' 
for reasons which are by no means complimentary to the 
learned profession ; and views him with that admixture of 


hate and fear, with which unsophisticated landsmen are 


apt to regard his terrestrial representatives. To bait a line 
and catch the mackerel or the bonito, is always a welcome 
occupation to the sailor ; but to no amusement does Jack 
bend himself with such a hearty alacrity as to take the 


*' shirk/' When, on approaching the northern tropic, 

** Down drops the breeze, the sails drop down,'* 

- r > -1- * 

'tis not " sad as sad can be ; " for all is hilarity and alert- 


Away goes one to the harness-cask, for a junk of 


salt pork, another is on his knees before the cabin-locker 
rummaging out an enormous hook, which tradition con- 
fidently reports is deposited there ; a third is. unreeving 
the studding-sail halyards to serve as a line, for so tough 



customer needs stout gear ; a fourth is standing on the 

taffrail, keeping an eye on the 



off, and now comes gliding up, a light-green mass, through 
the blue water, till his whiteness nearly touches the sur- 
face, and telling the villain all the while, with uncouth 
maledictions, that his time is coming. The mate is on 
the jib-boom wielding the grains, whose trident-prongs 
te has been for the last half-hour sharpening with a file, 


I ' 

take by force any one of the hated race who 


may Ibe too suspicious for the bait astern. And now the 
skipper himself comes up, for even dignity itself cannot 
resist the temptation, and with his own brawny hands 
puts on the enticing pork, and lowers away. 


'Tis twirling and eddyin 

g in the wash of the ship's 

counter: the crew are divided in their alleij;iance — half 

cluster at the quarter to watch the captain's success, half 
at the cat-heads to see the mate's harpooning. There 
sciittle' up the two little pilot-fishes, in their banded livery 
of blue and brown, from their station one on each side 
of the shark's nose : they hurry to the bait, snifi" at it, 
nibble at it, and then back in all haste to their huge 
patron, giving his grimness due information of the treat 
that awaits him. See how eagerly he receives it ! with 

tail he shoots ahead, and 
Look out there! standby 

lateral wave of his, powerful 

instant at the pork 
a turn of the line 

round a belaying pin, for he 


to take a turn 

going to bite, and he 11 give us a sharp tug 

pair of eyes is wide open, and every mouth, tc 

monster turns on his side, and prepares to take in tn 





delicate morsel. But no ; fce smells the rusty iron, per- 
haps, or perhaps he sees the line; at any rate he con- 

-1 -1 

tents himself with a siiifF, and drops astern; comiiig 
forward again, however, the next minute to sniff and 

sniff again. 'Tis perilous ; yet tis temptmg. 
A shout forward ! The mate has struck one ! 

" .* i!? 

r. < ^ \^ 


^ 1. ^ 



-L ^ 

k ' 


away rush the after band to see the sport ; the skipper 
himself hauls in the line, and joins the shouting throng. 


Yes : the grains have been well thrown, and are fast in- 

the fleshy part of the back. What a monster !" full 
fifteen feet long, if he 's an inch ! and how he plunges, 

\ _v t 



- L ~, - ' H 

^■n -. 

_ k 


and dives, and rolls round and round, enraged at the 
pain and restraint, till you can't discern his body for the 



sheet of white foam in which it is enwrapped 1 The stout \ 
line strains and creaks, but holds on ; 

^ 1. 


.,U ■ ^f 

a dozen:^ eager '^ 

H ■ » 

4 ^ 

hands are pulling in, and at last the unwilling victim is 

r ' 

at the surface just beneath the bows, but plunging with 
tremendous force. * . : :i 


1 I 

t - 

J r - H 



' 4 T\ 

^ *} "^ 

^ _ I' ' 

> "I 



- I 


Now, one of the smarter hands has jumped into the 
forechains with a rope made into a noose. Many efforts 
he makes to aet this over the tail, without success ; at 


■*--%.V ' 

' > 

■r -f 

, '■-'>■ 



- ".;- 


^ - 

length it is slipped 
the prey is secure. 

over, in an instant hauled taut, and 



* ■_ t> 


n ■ 

" Eeeve the line through a block, and take a run with 

Up comes the vast length, tail f oremost^ out of the 

h « 



q ^- 


*r . ■ ^ - ^ 


1 "^ 

sea ; for a moment the ungainly beast hangs, twining a,nd 

bending his body, 

and gnashing those horrid fangs, till 

^ ** 

. ■^^"i- 

bal -a-dozen boat-hooks guide tiie mass to its death-bed 

u m.*"' -■ ^ 


on the broad deck. Stand clear! If that mou 

.^ - 

I ^^ 

- -^-:r 

'■l ™ ^ 

-a ■ ^ 

i ■'_■'*._ ' ^* ^_ - ^ ^ 'i^ 

^ ^J Ji 




' t ■ 

, I 

m ' '■ 


¥■ 1 

* i 

1 I 





I I y. 

h * 

* ; 

^ > 


I .:;,MI'> 

H t 


> . 


^ ' 

'^ .-■ 


bold of your leg, it will cut through it, sinew, muscle, and 
jbone ; the stoutest man on board would be swept down 
if he came within the reach of that violent tail What 
reverberating blows it inflicts on the smooth planks ! 

One cannot look at that face without an involuntary 
shudder. The long flat head, and the mouth so greatly 
overhung by the snout, impart a most repulsive expres- 
■bion to the countenance; and then the teeth, those 
terrible serried fangs, as keen as lancets, and yet cut 
into fine notches like saws, lying row behind row, row 
behind row, six rows deep ! See how the front rows 
start up into erect stifi"ness, as the creature eyes you! 
You shrink back from the terrific implement, no longer 

wondering that the stoutest limb of man should be 
severed in a moment by such chirurgery. But the eyes ! 
those horrid eyes! it is the eyes that make the shark's 


countenance what it is — the very embodiment of Satanic 
malignity. . Half-concealed beneath the bony brow, the 
little green eye gleams with so peculiar an expression of 
hatred, such a concentration of fiendish malice, — of quiet, 
calm, settled villany, that no other countenance that I 
have ever seen at all resembles. Though I have seen 
many a shark, I could never look at that eye without 
feeling my flesh creep, as it were, on my bones. 

How eerie (to use an expressive northern term, for 
which we have no equivalent) must be the scene pre- 
sented to a few forlorn mariners committed to an open 
boat in the midst of the broad southern sea, a thousand 
miles from land, when by night these obscene monsters 

222 THE WILD. 

come gliding up alongside, keeping hated conipany! 
Cleaving the phosphorescent sea, their bodies are invested 
with an elfish light, and a bluish gleam trails behind. 
Nothing strikes more terror into the hearts of the poor 
ship-bereft seamen than such uninvited companions. 
They make no noise : as silently as ghosts they steal 
along ; now disappearing for a few minutes ; then there 

again ; throughout the dreary night they maintain their 
viiril, fillino- the failino^ heart with auguries of death. 


What do they there? Ah! their horribly unerring 
instinct has taught them that such an object too often 
yields them the meal they are seeking. They silently 
demand the corpse that fatigue and suffering, exposure 
and privation, are surely and swiftly preparing for them. 
They well deem that by the morning light a sullen pluno-e 
will ease the boat of the night's dead, and they are quite 
ready to furnish the living grave. » 

The following vivid picture, though given in a work of 

fiction, is so manifestly drawn from the life, that I shall be 

pardoned for citing it, the more because I have had some 

opportunities of personally verifying this writer's oceanic 

delineations, and have observed their remarkable truth- 

" The night following our abandonment of the ship was 
made memorable by a remarkable spectacle. Slumber- 
ing in the bottom of the boat, Jarl and I were suddenly 
awakened by Samoa. Startino^, we beheld the ocean of a 

pallid white colour, coruscating all over with tiny golden 
sparkles. But the pervading hue of the water cast a 


cadaverous gleam upon the boat, so that we looked to 
jS each other like ghosts. For many rods astern, our wake 
|, was revealed in a line of rushing illuminated foam ; while, 
^ here and there beneath the surface, the tracks of sharks 

were denoted by vivid, greenish trails, crossing ami 

• X, 

recrossing each other in every direction. Further away, 


and distributed in clusters, floated on the sea, like con- 
. . stellations in the heavens, innumerable medusae, a species 

of small, round, refulgent fish, only to be met with in the 
,,, South Seas and the Indian Ocean. 
.:,;'" Suddenly, as we gazed, there shot high into the air 

a bushy jet of flashes, accompanied by the unmistakeable 

.deep-breathing sound of a sperm whale. Soon the sea 

.^all round us spouted in fountains of fire ; and vast forms, 

-.emitting a glare from their flanks, and ever and anon 

■ raisincr their heads above water, and shakinoj off the 

sparkles, shewed where an immense shoal of cachalots 
. had risen from below, to sport in these phosphorescent 

„ billows. 
;," The vapour jetted forth was far more radiant than 

,, any portion of the sea; ascribable, perhaps, to the origin- 
ally luminous fluid, contracting still more brillancy from 
its passage through the spouting canal of the whales. 

... !* We were in great fear lest, without any vicious inten- 
tion, the leviathans might destroy us by coming into close 
contact with our boat. , We would have shunned them, 


but they were all round and round us. Nevertheless we 
were safe ; for, as we parted the pallid brine, the peculiar 
irradiation which shot from about our keel seemed to 

^ J 

224 THE WILD. 


deter them. Apparently discovering us of a sudden, 


many of tliem plunged headlong down into the water, 
tossing their fiery tails high into the air, and leaving the 
sea still more sparkling from the violent surging of their 


Their general course seemed the same as our own ; 

to the westward. To remove from them, we at last out 

r , 


oars, and pulled towards the north. So doing, we were 
steadily pursued by a solitary whale that must have taken 
our boat for a kindred fish. Spite of all our efforts, he 
drew near and nearer ; at length rubbing his fiery flank 
against the gunwale, here and there leaving long strips 
of the glossy transparent substance, which, thin as a 
gossamer, invests the body of the cachalot. 

" In terror at a sight so new, Samoa shrank. But 
Jarl and I, more used to the intimate companionship of 
the whales, pushed the boat away from it with our oars j 
a thing often done in the fishery. 

" But, to my great joy, the monster at last departed ; 
rejoining the shoal, whose lofty spoutings of flame were 

r , , 

still visible upon the distant line of the horizon, showing 
there like the fitful starts of the Aurora Borealis. 

" The sea retained its luminosity for about three hours, 
at the expiration of half that period beginning to fade; 
and, excepting occasional faint illuminations, consequent 
upon the rapid darting of fish under water, the phe- 
nomenon at last wholly disappeared. 

" Heretofore, I had beheld several exhibitions of marine 
phosphorescence, both in the Atlantic and Pacific ; but 



^ » 

tiling in 


mparison with what was seen that night. 

:ion of the 


In the 'Atlantic, there is very seldom any poi 

"r f^ "- 


luminous, except the crests of the waves, 
mostty iiDpear so during wet murky weather. 
in the Pacific, all instances of the sort previously coming 
under my notice, had been marked by patches of greenish 
light, unattended with any pallidness of the sea. Save 
twice on the coast of Peru, when I was summoned from 
my hammock by the alarming cry of ' All hands ahoy ! 
tack ship!' and rushing on deck, beheld the sea white 
as a shroud ; for which reason it was feared we were on 

This idea of unearthliness is a great element in the 

Our matter-of-fact age 

Romance of Natural History, 
despises and scouts it as absurd, and those who are con- 
scions of such impressions acknowledge that they are 
unreal, yet feel them none the less. The imagniative 
Greeks peopled every wild glen, every lonely shore, every 



obscure cavern, every solemn grove, with the spiritual, 
only rarely and fitfully visible or audible. So it has been 
with all peoples^ especially in that semi-civilised stage 
which is so favourable to poetic developments : the elves 
and fays, the sprites and fairies, the Jack-o'-lanterns, the 
Will-o'-the-wisps, and Eobin-goodfellows, and Banshees, 
what are they all but the phenomena of nature, dimly 
discerned, and attributed by a poetic temperament to 
beings of unearthly races, but of earthly sympathies? 
The garish day, with its clearness and perfect definition of 

* Melville's Mardi, vol. L, p. 187. 


\ , 

226 THE WILD. 

every object, is far less favourable for these impressions 
than night; not only because at the latter season the mind 
is solemnised, but also because the obscurity renders 
visible objects dim and uncertain ; gives to familiar things 
stranoe and fantastic forms ; and, while the peculiar con- 
ditions of the atmosphere render sounds more distinct, 
these are often of an unwonted character, vague in their 
origin, and cannot be corrected by the sense of sight. 

In the forests of Lower Canada and the New England 
States I have often heard in spring a mysterious sound, 
of which to this day I know not the author. Soon after 
night sets in, a metallic sound is heard from the most 
sombre forest swamps, where the spruce and the hemlock 
give a peculiar density to the woods, known as the " black 
growth.'' The sound comes up clear and regular, like 


the measured tinkle of a cow-bell, or gentle strokes on a 
piece of metal, or the action of a file upon a saw. It 
goes on, with intervals of interruption, throughout the 
hours of darkness. People attribute it to a bird, which 


they call the whetsaw ; but nobody pretends to have seen 

r _ - 

^_ r 

it, so that this can only be considered conjecture, though 


a highly probable one. The monotony and pertinacity of 
this note had a strange charm for me, increased doubtless 

I ^B 

by the mystery that hung over it. Night after night, it 
would be heard in the same spot, invariably the most 
sombre and gloomy recesses of the black-timbered woods. 
I occasionally watched for it, resorting to the woods 
before sunset, and waiting till darkness ; but, strange to 
say, it refused to perform under such conditions.. The 


shy and recluse bird, if bird it is, was doubtless aware 


of the intrusion, and on its ojuard. Once I heard it under 

I . .,4 

peculiarly wild circumstances. I was riding late at night 

and just at midnight came to a very lonely part of the 
road, where the black forest rose on each side. Every- 

thing was profoundly still, and the measured tramp of 
my horse's feet on the frozen road was felt as a relief to 
the deep and oppressive silence; when, suddenly, from 
the sombre woods, rose the clear metallic tinkle of the 
whetsaw. The sound, all unexpected as it was, was very 
striking, and, though it was bitterly cold, I drew up for 
some time to listen to it. In the darkness and silence of 

-^ f f 

the hour, that regularly measured sound, proceedin 

-y .^ . . . . 

from so gloomy a spot, had an effect on my mind, solemn 
and unearthly, yet not unmingled with pi asure. 

r z^ . 

It is, doubtless the mystery in such cases that mainly 
constitutes the charm. In Jamaica I used to hear fre- 
quently a querulous cry, "kep, kep, kep," — uttered in 
the air after night-fall by some creature which flew round 
in a great circle, but was invisible. Now and then the 

' - r' 

utterance was varied by a most demoniac shriek or two, 
arid then the call went on as before. I was exceedinpjly 

• ' 1 4 - . . > ^ \ » 

terested in this, till I ascertained that it was the wh 


owl, and obtained a specimen, after which the romantic 

ir < , ' . 

feeling with which I had listened to it was no longer 

i v* ' » - ,' i 

awakened by the sound. 

f 1 r I I 

, In some parts of this country the peasantry hear with 
superstitious awe the hollow booming note of the bittern, 
proceeding from the lonely marsh in the stillness of ihe 

_ 1 


228 THE WILD. 

evenino". They attribute the voice to some supernatural 
creature of formidable size and powers, which is supposed 
to reside at the bottom of the fens, and which they call 
the Bull-o'-the-bog. The sound is sufficiently awful to 

excuse the error. 

The dreary cypress-swamps of the Southern United 

States possess a bird closely allied to our bittern, whose 
voice, though destitute of the volume of the European 
bird, is startling enough to hear in its savage solitudes. 
Nothing can be more dismal, even by day, than the in- 
terior of one of those swamps, — half-tepid, stagnant water 
coverinnj the ground, the dense timber trees, a hundred 

feet in height, whose opaque and sombre-hued foliage 
almost shuts out the sky, while the gaunt horizontal 
branches are hung with far-pendent ragged bundles of 

F^ * 

Spanish moss,* the very lype of dreariness and desolation. 
Such trees remind one of an army of skeletons, giants of 
some remote age, still standing where they had lived, and 

^ t 

still wearing the decaying tatters of the robes which they 
had worn of old. At night, however, these forests are 
invested with tenfold gloom, and imagination peoples the 
palpable blackness and silence with all sorts of horrors, 
as the eye vainly attempts to peer into their depths ; 
while ever and anon, the melancholy "quah !" hoarse and 

\ tf 

hollow, booms out from the solitude, chilling one's spirit, 
as if it were the voice of the presiding demon of the place. 


Not in vain have the inspired Prophetsf made use of the 
bittern as one of the elements in their delineations of 

X i ' 

TUlandsia umeoides. f Isa. xiv. 23, xxxiv. 11 ; Zei h. ii 14. 



awful and titter desolation. Take for an example the 
denunciation upon Idumea, in Isa. xxxiv. : 

i ■ i 

■ **And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch 

M^ f^f^ 

and the 'liust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof 
shall become burning pitch. 

J * 

It shall not be quenched night nor day ; the smoke 
thereof shall go up for ever : from generation to genera- 
tion it shall lie waste ; none shall pass through it for ever 
and ever. 

' : " But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it j the 
owl also and the raven shall dwell in it : and he shall 

; _* 'S . 

stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones 
of emptiness. 

1 _ 1 

"They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but 
none stall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing. 
.■"'' And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and 
brambles in the fortresses thereof : and it shall be an 
habitation of dragons, and a court for owls. 
"' " The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the 
wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his 
fellow ; the screech-owl also shall rest there, and find for 
herself a place of rest. 

" ' " There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, 
and hatch, and gather under her shadow ; there shall the 
vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate." 

- . A fine accumulation is here of wild and dreary images; 
and I do not know a better exemplification of the category 

, of natural phenomena under consideration than this awfuj 
passage of Holy Writ. ■ 

230 THE WILD. 


Sir Emerson Tennent, in his elaborate volumes on 
Ceylon, lately published, has alluded to a bird of night 
which superstition invests with peculiar terrors. He thus 
speaks of it. Like the whetsaw, it seems to be " vox et 

prceterea nihil. 

Of the nocturnal accipitres the most remarkable is 


the brown owl, which, from its hideous yell, has acquired 
the name of the ' Devil Bird.' The Singhalese regard it 

literally with horror; and its scream by night, in the 



vicinity of a village, is bewailed as the harbinger of 
approaching calamity. 

After alluding to another sound attributed to a bird, 
but of which the authorship is involved in uncertainty, 
he adds : 

" Mr Mitford, of the Ceylon Civil Service, to whom I 
am indebted for many valuable notes relative to the birds 
of the island, regards the identification of the Singhalese 
Devil-bird as open to similar doubt : he says, * The Devil- 
bird is not an owl. I never heard it until I came to 
Kornegalle, where it haunts the rocky hill at the back of 
the Government-house. Its ordinary note is a magnificent 
clear shout like that of a human being, and which can 
be heard at a great distance, and has a fine effect in the 
silence of the closing night. It has another cry, like that 
of a hen just caught ; but the sounds which have earned 
for it its bad name, and which I have heard but once to 
perfection, are indescribable, the most appalling ' that 
can be imagined, and scarcely to be heard without 
shuddering ; I can only compare it to a boy in torture, 

\ . 


whose screams are being stopped by being strangled. I 
' have offered rewards for a specimen, but without success." * 

The resemblance of this description to that given by 

I - f * \ I 


Wilson of the performances of the great horned owl of 
North America, induces a suspicion that Mr Mitford may 

. be in error, in so confidently denying the Ceylon bird to 
be an owl. Wilson says of his formidable species, — " His 

. favourite residence is in the dark solitudes of deep swamps, 
covered with a growth of gigantic timber ; and here, as 
soon as evenin<T draws on, and mankind retire to rest, he 

V. ■ ' 

sends forth such sounds as seem scarcely to belong to this 
world, startling the solitary pilgrim as he slumbers by his 

forest fire, 


■ ".'^ 

' Making night hideous/ 

^ A 


Alono- the mountainous shores of the Ohio, and amidst 
the deep forests of Indiana, alone, and reposing in the 
woods, this ghostly watchman has frequently warned me 
of the approach of morning, and amused me with his 
sinojular exclamations, sometimes sweeping down and 

I . 

-1 v.^ 

around my fire, uttering a loud and sudden ' Waugli ! 


Waugh ! ' sufiicient to have alarmed a whole garrison. 
He has other nocturnal solos, no less melodious, one of 
which very strikingly resembles the half-suppressed screams 


of a person suffocating, or throttled, and cannot fail of 


being exceedingly entertaining to a lonely benighted 
traveller, in the midst of an Indian wilderness." f 

I have myself heard the startling call of this fine night- 


fowl in the Southern States, when, in penetrating through 


* Tennent's Ceylon, i, p. 167. t 

1 * 



the swamps, covered with gigantic beeches and sycamores. ■ 
entwined and tangled by the various species of briers and 
vines that hans: in festoons from the trees, and amidst 

challenoing the intruder. 

the evergreen bushes of the hystrix fan-palm, this " gliostly 
watchman" lifts up his hollow voice like a sentinel 

Through the afternoon, and 
especially as day wanes into evening, they may be heard 
from all quarters of the swamps ; and in the deep solitude 
and general silence of these gloomy recesses, the 
peculiarly startling. 
his call ; the last syllable uttered with particular earnest- 
ness, and protracted for some seconds, and gradually 
falling. The whole is given deliberately, in a loud and 
hollow tone ; and one can scarcely be persuaded that it 
comes from a bird. 


cry is 
Ho ! oh6 ! oh6 ! waugh h5 ! " is 

S i 

I have already alluded to the Guacharo, an extraordinary 
bird inhabiting a very limited district in the province of 
Cumana, South America, and entirely confined to caverns. 
There is, hoAvever, so much of romantic interest attached 
to its habits, that we may glance at a few of the details 
which Humboldt has given us from his own experience. 
On his arrival at the valley of Caripe, the people all spoke 
with superstitious wonder of a cavern several leao^ucs in 

length, that gave birth to a river, and was haunted 

thousands of night-birds, whose fat was used in the 
Missions instead of butter. 

Humboldt made a party to explore this wondrous 


After reaching the river which flows out of it, 
.they followed its course upwards by a winding path, till 



at length the cave yawned before them in all its grandeur. 
It is pierced in the vertical side of a rock, forming a vault 


upwards of eighty feet in width, and nearly the same in 

height. The face of the rock is clad with 



^ ^ 

and all the luxuriant profusion of tropical vegetation. 
Beautiful and curious parasitic plants, ferns and orchids, 
and elegant creepers and lianes, festooned the rugged 
entrance, hanging down in wild drapery, and, what is 
remarkablej this riant verdure penetrated for some distance 
even into the cave. Humboldt beheld with astonishment 
noble plantain-like heliconice eighteen feet high, palms, 
and arborescent arums, followinor the course of the river 


' - 

even to the subterranean parts. There the vegetation 
continues as in the deep crevices of the Andes, half shut 
out from the light of day, nor does it disappear till a 

distance of thirty or forty paces from the entrance. The 
party went forward for about four hundred and thirty 
feet, without beim? oblio^ed to li^ht their torches. Where 

the light began to fail, they heard from afar the hoarse 
cries of the guacharo birds. He states that it is difficult 
to form an idea of the horrible noise made by thousands 
of these birds in the dark recesses of the cavern, whence 
■their shrill and piercing cries strike upon the vaulted 
rocks, and are repeated by the echo in the depths of the 
grotto. He observes that the race of guacharo birds 
would probably have been extinct long since, if several 
circumstances had not contributed to its preservation. 
The natives, withheld by superstitious fears, seldom dare 
to proceed far into the recesses of the cavern. Humboldt 

- t* 

I ■ 


234 THE WILD. 

had great difficulty in persuading them to pass beyond 
the outer part of the cave, the only part of it which they 
visit annually to collect the oil ; and tlie whole authority 
of the Padres was necessary to make them penetrate as 


far as the spot v/here the floor rises abruptly, at an incli- 
nation of sixty degrees, and where a small subterraneous 
cascade is formed by the torrent. In the minds of the 
Indians, this cave, inhabited by nocturnal birds, is 
associated with mystic ideas, and they believe that in the 
deep recesses of the cavern the souls of their ancestors 
sojourn. They say that man should avoid places which 
are enlightened neither by the sun nor the moon ; and to 


" go and join the guacharoes," means to rejoin their 
fathers — in bhort, to die. At the entrance of the cave, 
the magicians and poisoners perform their exorcisms, to 
conjure the chief of the evil spirits.* 

The following incident, which occurred to Mr Atkin- 

' 4 

son in his travels in Central Asia, is not without 
mantic interest : 

" Our course had hitherto been along the middle of the 
river, passing on our way several small islands which di- 
vided it into different streams. The Cossacks were rest- 
ing on their oars, not a sound was heard, when we glided 
into a narrow channel, between a long island and a thick 
bed of reeds. Our canoes had not floated more than fifty 
yards, when one of the Cossacks struck the reeds with his 
oar, and simultaneously they all gave a loud shout. In a 
moment there came a shriek, as if a legion of fiends had 

Personal Nan'ative. 


'been cast loose, winch was followed by a rusliing sound 
, and a flapping of wings on every side, rising high into 
V, mid-air : then the wdld concert was taken up and repeated 
ir above us. We had come suddenly on the covert of 
thousands of water-fowl. After this uproar the Cossacks 
pulled out into the middle of the stream, and passed 
quickly along through some beautiful scenery." 

Those who are familiar with the poulpes and cuttles of 


our coasts will readily allow that there is something more 


' } 

than usually repulsive in their appearance. Their flabby, 
corpse-like fleshiness, now lax and soft, now plumping up, 
their changes of colour, the livid hue that comes and goes 
•so strangely, the long lithe arms with their cold adhesive 
powers, their uncouth agility, their cunning adroitness 
and intelligence, and especially the look of their ghastly 
green eyes, make them decidedly " no canny." It does 
not need that they should be sufficiently colossal in dimen- 

..sions to throw their arms over a ship's hull and drag her 
under water, as oriental tales pretend, and as old-fashioned 

. naturalists believed, to induce us to give them a wide 
berth. It would not be pleasant to be entwined in the 

^ embrace of those arms ; and we can sympatliise with Mr 
Beale, who has described his feelings during an encounter 
which he had with a beastie of this sort, while engaged in 

. searching for shells amono- the rocks of the Bonin Islands. 

He was much astonisjied at seeing at his feet a most ex- 
, traordinary-looking animal, crawling towards the surf, 

which it had only just left. It was creeping on its eiglit 


Atkinson's Siberia, p. 228. 


leo-s, which, from their soft and flexible nature, bent con- 
siderably under the weight of its body, so that it was 
lifted by the efforts of its tentacula only a small distance 
from the rocks. It appeared much alarmed at seeing 
him, and made every effort to escape. Mr Beale endea- 
voured to stop it by pressing on one of its legs with his 
foot ; but, although he used considerable force for that 
purpose, its strength was so great that it several times 
liberated its member, in spite of all the efforts he could 
employ on the wet and slippery rocks. He then laid 


hold of one of the tentacles with his hand, and held it 
firmly, so that it appeared as if the limb would be torn 
asunder by the united efforts of himself and the creature. 
He then gave it a powerful jerk, wishing to disentangle 
it from the rocks to which it clung so forcibly by its 


suckers. This effcjrt it effectually resisted ; but, the 
moment after, the apparently enraged animal lifted its 
head, with its large projecting eyes, and, loosing its hold 

of the rocks, suddenly sprang upon Mr Beale's arm, 
(which he had previously bared to the shoulder for the 
purpose of thrusting it into holes in the rocks after shells,) 
and clung to it by means of its suckers with great power, 
endeavouring to get its beak, which could now be seen 
between the roots of its arms, in a position to bite. A 
sensation of liorror pervaded his whole frame, when he 
found that this monstrous animal had fixed itself so 
firmly on his arm. He describes its cold, slimy grasp as 
extremely sickening ; and he loudly called to the captain, 
who was similarly engaged at some distance, to come and 
release him of his disgusting assailant. The captain 

J 4 



F ■_ 

|H - 

* J 

i '. 


t ' 

i \ 

f k 

-^ -> 

■■ t 


' T" 







■ ■ ■ ^> 

t c 

: . 

P ^ 

r V 

^ 4 





■* ■- ■ \i 




quickly came, and, taking him down to the boat, durinf' 
which time Mr Beale was employed in keeping the beak 
of the Octopus away from his hand, soon released him 
by destroying his tormentor with the boat-knife, when he 
disengaged it by portions at a time. This Cephalopod 
measured across its expanded arms about four feet, while 
its body was not bigger than a man's fist.* 

The shriek of the jackal bursting on the ear in the 
silence of night has been described by many a dweller in 
tents in the East as a most appalling sound. But per- 
haps this yields in effect to the combined efforts of the 
howling-monkeys in a South American forest. This most 
striking of all animal voices is heard occasionally at 
sunrise and sunset, and sometimes in the heat of the day, 
but more frequently during the darkness of the night. 
When near, the roar is terrific : a naturalist -[" has com- 
pared it to the tempest howling through rocky caverns. 
It is a noise so unearthly, that, heard unexpectedly for the 
first time, it would fill the mind with the most melan- 
choly and fearful forebodings. 


A traveller in the western wilds of North America 

bivouacking on the open prairie, awakened at midnight 

by the voices of a pack of prairie-wolves giving tongue 

around him, speaks of the wierd impression made on him 

by hearing a pack in full cry at the dead of tiie night, 

and compares it to the phantom hounds and huntsman of 

the German legends. J 

What was this, however, to Gordon Cumming's noctur- 

* Ekt of the Sperm Whale. + Mr Bates, in the Zoolorjkt, p. 3593L 

1 Sullivan's Ramhlea in America^ p. 77. 

4 * 

238 THE WILD. 

nal adventure with the wilde honden in Africa? He was 
watching for game in a hole which lie had dug by a pool 
in that romantic fashion already alluded to, and, having 
shot a gnu, had put down his rifle without reloading it, 

and dropped asleep. 

He had not slept long before his slumbers were dis- 
turbed by strange sounds. He dreamed that lions were 
rushing about in quest of him, till, the sounds increasing, 
he awoke with a sudden start, uttering a loud shriek. He 
heard the rushing of light feet on every side, accompanied 
by the most unearthly noises, and, on raising his head, to 
his utter horror, saw himself surrounded by troops of what 
the colonists call wild dogs, a savage animal between a 
wolf and a hyena. To the right and left, and within a few 
paces of the bold hunter, stood two lines of these ferocious- 
lookinoj animals, cocking their ears and stretching their 


necks to have a look at him ; while two large troops, con- 
taining forty at least, kept dashing backwards and for- 
M^ards across his wind, chattering and growling with the 
most extraordinary volubility. Another troop of the wild 
dogs were fighting over the gnu that had been shot ; and, 
on beholding them, the expectation of being himself pre- 
sently torn in pieces made the blood curdle over his 
cheeks, and the hair bristle on his head. 

In this dilennna the experienced hunter bethought 
himself of the power of the human voice and a deter- 
mined bearing in overawing brute animals ; and, spring- 
ing to his feet, he stepped upon the little ledge surround- 
ing the hole, when drawing himself up to his full height, 


V , -• ■• 




L * 

> X. 

he waved his large blanket with Lotli hands, at the same 


addressing his certainly 

f)lamn tone. Tliis had 

itive audience in a loud 
desired effect : the wild 

respectful di.'.:;ance, barking at him 

dogs shrank to a more 

like so many coUeys. 

rifle, and before this was accomplished the entire pack had 


this he began to load his 



/ 1 

* Tk^ Lion Hunter, cluip. ix. 

,y ^ } i '. J i ..1 ■ .• ■ ^ 


•.^ ^- /^ ft-. 

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Man's connexion with the creation around him occa- 


sionally brings him into circumstances of more serious 


result than a temporary excitement of the imagination, 
and a thrilling of the nerves, which might be on the 
whole rather pleasant than otherwise. He was indeed 
invested with lordship over the inferior creatures, and in 
general they own his dominion ; but many of them are 
endowed with powers for evil, to which he can oppose no 
effectual resistance ; at least, none so invariably effectual, 
but that occasions occur in which the mastery is reversed. 
Some are furnished with enormous weisfht and strenirth. 

able to crush him with mere brute momentum ; others 
carry formidable weapons, horns and hoofs, claws and 
teeth, tusks and fangs, wielded with consummate skill, 
and made more effective by the aid of muscular strength, 
fleetness of pace, agility, instinct of combination, or cuu- 
ning strategy. Others, small and apparently contemptible, 

are yet armed with implements so terribly lethal, that 
the slightest puncture of the skin by one of them, darted 
too with lightning-like rapidity and almost unerring pre- 
cision, is inevitably and immediately followed by the most 

liorrid form of death. 

* ■ - * 



And the 

declining a contest with him, yet there are circum- 

creatnres are conscions of their own powers ; 
and, thongh they will often tacitly own man's supremacy 


stances ever and anon occurring, — hunger sometimes, some- 
times rage, or the desperation induced by escape being 
cut off, or the aropyrj which makes the helpless bold,- — in 
which they 'are willing to try " the wager of battle 



their lieo;e. 

V *- 

,,. The stern conflict for life, when man stands fixe to 

face with his bestial foes, has given many a romantic page 

, to , the annals of natural history; and too many such 

are stained with the harrowing record of their 


grim victory, and his bloody death. We cannot therefore 

, ignore them in the aspect of 



considering ; but we may content ourselves with a few 

pies of 

terrible ; the difficulty lies in the selec- 


from the profusion of mat(^') 


Throuiihout the 

th temperate zone 

olf is a 

J + 

d bloodthirsty foe of 

making up by 

like .that of the hound, a patient perseverance, and a 
, habit of combining in numbers in common pursuit, what 
, it lacks in individual power. Yet, individually, a wolf is 

a,ble to pull down 

rmed man, and, when pressed 


with famine in severe winters, it becomes very dar 
In our own island its ravages have lonoj ; 



remote era 

long ago induced its 
ouses were erected at 
to serve as places of 
refuo-e ac:alnst the assaults of the wolves ; and January 
was by our Anglo-Saxon ancestors called, " Wolf-mouat," 


certain intervals by the road-sides 




(Wolf-month,) because more people were devoured 
wolves in that month tlian at other times. 

In the north and east of Europe, the danger incurred 
by travellers in sledges of being hunted by packs of 
hungry wolves is very great ; and many dreadful incidents 
bear witness to their success. A very horrible one is 
narrated by Mr Lloyd. A woman accompanied by three 
of her children was one day travelling in this mode, when 
she discovered that she was pursued by these gaunt foes 






in full pack. She immediately put the horse into a 
gallop, and drove towards her home, from which she was 
not far distant, with all possible speed. All, however, 
would not avail, for the ferocious animals gained upon 
her, and at last were on the point of rushing on the 
sledge. For the preservation of her own life, and that 
of the remaining children, the poor frantic creature now 
took one of the babes and cast it a prey to her blood- 
thirsty pursuers. This stopped their career for a moment, 
but, after devouring the little innocent, they renewed 
their pursuit, and a second time came up with the vehicle. 
The mother, driven to desperation, resorted to the same 
horrible expedient, and threw her ferocious assailants 
another of her offspring. To cut short this melancholy 


story, her third child was sacrificed in a similar manner. 
Soon after this the wretched being, whose feelings may 
more easily be conceived than described, reached her 
home in safety. 

Mr Atkhison has sketched,* with his usual graphic 

* Siberia, p. 431. ' 

I L 

\ - 



vigour, the situation of himself and his party of Kuhnucks, 
when surrounded by wolves in Mongolia. They were en- 
carnped for the night on the open steppe on the banks of 
ji* little lake, when suddenly the howling of the terrible 
wolves was heard at a distance. The men quickly col- 
lected the horses, and prepared to receive the assailants. 
The fire was nearly out, but it was thousjht best to allow 
them to approach, and then by a little fresh fuel obtain 
lifrht enou2;h for a fair shot. It was not Ions: before the' 
padding of their many feet was heard as they galloped 
towards the party, and presently a savage howl arose. 
The men threw some dry bushes on the embers, and 
blew up a bright flame, which sent its red glare far 
around, disclosing the pack with ears and tails erect, and 
flashing eyes. At a signal, five rifles and a double-barrel 
poured in a volley with deadly efiect, as the horrible 
howling revealed. Snarling and shrieking, the pack drew 
off, but the Kalmucks declared they would return. 
Ai'Sooii the terror 'of the horses announced there-approach 
of the marauders, and they could be heard stealing round 
between the encampment and the lake, dividin 
packs, so as to approach on opposite sides. Presently 
the glare of their eyeballs was seen, and thair grizzly 
forms pushing one another on. Again the bullets sped, 


and the shrieking packs again retreated, but only to keep 
Match at a little distance' 

The nio'ht now crrew very dark, and all the fuel was 

ed. 'Presently, a di 

d the 

approach of a new pack, on whose arrival the old ones, 




which had been silently biding their time, began to mani- 
fest their presence by jealous growls, which soon gave 
way to a general fight among themselves. Some of the 
men now, well armed, crept along the margin of the lake 
to collect more fuel, which was then placed on the fire. 
The flame was blown up, and a group of eight or ten 
wolves was seen within fifteen paces, with others beyond. 
The rifles once more cracked, and the packs with a fright- 
ful howl scampered off. 

In the morning eight wolves were lying dead, and the 
bloody tracks shewed that many others had carried away 
mortal wounds, the reminiscences of this fearful nioht. 

The brown bear of Europe is of formidable strength, and 
sufficiently bold occasionally to be a serious antagonist, as 
numerous adventures of Mr Lloyd and other northern 
sportsmen testify. Though it can subsist on fruits, grain, 
and honey, which involve no destruction of animal life, 
yet it is ])redaceous and ferocious too. The ancient 
Romans made use of Scottish bears to augment the horrors 
of public executions : 

■ J 

" Nuda Caledonio sic pectora prsebuit iirso, 
Non falsa pendens in cruce, Laureolus." 


The ferocity of the Syrian bear is illustrated by many 
passages of Sacred Writ, and in particular by the narra- 
tive which records the slaughter of the forty-two youths, 
who mocked Elisha, by two she-bears.* And the Polar 
bear is a truly savage and powerful animal. 

But no species of the genus can compare with the 

2Kiugsii. 24. •■' 


^ . 

grizzly bear of the North American prairies, for either 

- ^ 

size, strength, or ferocity. Tlie names of Ursus ferox and 
U.horriUlis, which have been given to it, re-echo the 


prevailing ideas of its terrible character. Even the sava<^e 
bison, vast and mighty as he is, falls a prey to the grizzly 
bear, which can drag the carcase, thou^rh a thousand 

\ ».*■-. 

pounds in weight, to its haunt. Lewis and Clarke measured 

one which was nine feet in length. 

The hunters and traj)pers of the Eocky Mountains 
delight to tell, over their camp fires, stories of personal 
encounters with this formidable savage. Many of these 
stirring incidents have found their way into print, and 
one of them I shall here condense. 

* 1 ' > . 


• A Canadian named Villandrie, pursuing his occupation 
of a free trapper on the Yellow-stone Eiver, had acquired 
by his skill and daring the reputation of the best white 
hunter in the region. One morning, when he was riding 


out to have a look at his beaver traps, he had to break 
his way through some thick bushes that grew on a high 
bank above a small river. He was going along, pushing 
back the twigs with the barrel of his rifle, and keeping 
an eye on the bank, when all at once he found himself 
close, to an old she grizzly bear, which rose instantly and 
dashed furiously at the horse, as he was struggling with 


the shrubs and bushes. One blow of her colossal paw 

- r 

was enough to break his back, and to throw Villandrie 
down the bank, his rifle falling into the water. Three 

half-grown cubs now occupied themselves with the poor 
struggling horse, while the raging mother rushed towards 



the trapper, who was just getting up ; but before he had 
well drawn his long knife, the bear's claws were on his 
left arm and shoulder. His right arm he could still move 


freely, and he inflicted stab after stab in the neck of his 
fierce enemy, which did not on that account relax her 
gripe, but tried to catch the knife with her teeth. . At 
every movement he made, she seemed to dig deeper into 

his shoulder and loins. 

The struggle had not lasted a minute, when the sandy 

\ _ 

bank suddenly gave way, and down the combatants went 
into the water. Fortunately for Villandrie, the sudden 
cold bath made the bear loose her hold : she returned to 
her cubs, and left her mangled antagonist to get away as 
well as he could. The next day he reached a Sioux 
village, very much exhausted from loss of blood ; but 


he got his wounds tolerably healed, and still maintained 
his character of the best white trapper on the Yellow- 
stone.* • 

Eecent travellers in Africa have made us somewhat 
familiar with the mighty and ferocious brutes of that 


arid continent, the very metropolis of bestial power. Not 
only have the missionary, the colonist, and the soldier 
encountered the lordly animals in their progress into the 
wilierness, but hunters, either for sport or profit, have 
gone m search of them, bearded the lion by his midnight 
fountain, and provoked the elephant to single combat in 
his forest fastnesses. Fearful adventures have hence 
ensued, the records of which have thrilled us dwellers at 


Molihauseu's Journey to the Pacific, i., p, 103. 


home by our winter firesides. One or two of these I may 
select for, illustration of the terrible in natural history, 
r Nothing is more appalling in the way of animal voices 
thaii the scream, or "trumpeting," as it is called, of an 
eniraged elephant. The hunting of this animal in South 
Africa is awful work. To stand in front of a creature 

twelve feet high, infuriated to the utmost, to hear his 
shriek of rage, to see him come crashing on with an 
impetus that throws the very trees out of the ground, 
needs all the nerve and all the courao^e that man can 
bring to the conflict. Livingstone says that the terrible 


{"trumpet" is more like what the shriek of a French 
steam-whistle would be to a man standing on a railway, 

..,than any other earthly sound. So confounding is it, that 
a horse unused to the chase will sometimes stand shiver- 
ing, and unable to move, instead of galloping from the 

•peril.;,' Gordon Gumming has depicted a stirring scene, 
in which, having dismounted to fire at an elephant, he 

, ,was immediately charged by another ; his horse, terrified 
by being thus placed between two enraged mcnsters, 

,. refused to be mounted ; and it was only when he exj^ected 

^, to feel a trunk clasping his body, that he managed to 

. spring into the saddle. 


\ ' 

Even when mounted, the legs of the steed will some- 

fail from terror, and he falls with his rider ; or, 
from the character of tlje forest, the latter may be dragged 
from his seat during the flight, and thus be left hel[>lcrfs 
before the furious beast, exposed to be iiipaled by the long 
tusks, or crushed into a mummy by the enormous feet. 


An adventure of tliis sort with an elephant befel one 
who has had more narrow escapes than any man living, 
but whose modesty has always prevented him from pub- 
lishing anything about himself. On the bnnks of the 
Zouo-a, in 1850, Mr Oswell pursued one of these animals 
into the dense, thick, thorny bushes met with on the 
maro-in of that river, and to which the elephant usually 

- I 


flees for safety. He followed through a narrow pathway, 
by lifting up some of the branches and forcing his way 
through the rest ; but when he had just got over this 
difficulty, he saw the elephant^ whose tail he had got 
limpses of before, now rushing towards him. There was 


then no time to lift up branches, so he tried to force the 
horse through them. He could not effect a passage ; and, 
as there was but an instant between the attempt and 


failure, the hunter tried to dismount ; but, in doing this, 
one foot was caught by a branch, and the spur drawn 
along the animaFs flank ; this made him spring away 
and throw the rider on the ground, witli his face to the 
elephant, which being in full chase, still went on. ; Mr 
Oswell saw the huge fore-foot ab )ut to descend on his 
legs, parted them, and drew in his breath as if to resist 
the pressure of the other foot, which he expected would 
next descend on his body. He saw the whole length of 
the under part of the enormous brute pass over him ; the 
horse got away safely. Dr Livingstone, who records the 


anecdote, has heard but of one other authentic instance 
in which an elephant went over a man without injury; 
and, for any one who knows the nature of the bush in 




^ i^' 

wliich this occurred, the very thought of an encounter in 
it with such a foe is appalling. As the thorns are placed 

■ in'pairs on opposite sides of the branches, and these turn 
rouncT on being pressed against, o«e pau^ brings the other 

" exactly into the position in which it must pierce the 


'intruder. They cut like knives. Horses dread this bush 

extremely ; indeed, most of them refuse to face its thorns.* 

- Occasionally, however, the elephant-hunter falls a 

victim to his daring. A young and successful ivory- 


hunter, named Thackwray, after numberless hair-breadth 
escapes, at length lost his life in the pursuit. On one 

■ occasion, a herd pursued him to the edge of a frightful 
precipice, where his only chance of safety consisted in 
dropping down to a ledge of rock at some distance below. 

;. Scarcely was he down before one of the elephants was 
seen above, endeavouring to reach him with its trunk. 
The hunter could easily have shot the brute while thus 
eno;ao;ed, but was deterred by the fear of the huge car- 

es -o 

case falling down on him, which would have been certain 
destruction. - He escaped this danger, but soon afterwards, 
almost at the very same spot, he met the fatal rencontre. 
With one attendant Hottentot, Thackwray had engaged a 
herd of elephants, one of which he had wounded. The 
Hottentot, seeing it fall, sui)posed that it was dead, and 

approached it, when the animal rose and charged furiously. 
The lad threw himself upon the ground, and the infuriated 
beast 'passed without noticing liim, tearing up tJie trees 
and scattering them in its blind ra^re ; but 

O^ , ^v.^, • ^ 


1 rir! • i . * Livingstone's South Africa, p. 580. 


"* . 

a thicket where Thackwray was reloading his jifle, it 


cauo;ht sioht of him, and in an instant hurled him to the 
earth, thrusting one of its tusks through his thigh. ;, It 
then caught the wretched man in its trunk, and ek 

'.'.■., -f 

him in the air, dashed him with great force upon the 
ground, kneeling and trampling upon him, and as i 
kneading his crushed and flattened corpse iiito the du 



th an implacable fury. The remains, when discoye'red 

.V. ■ ■■-■.-> . V...^-, 

presented a most appalling spectacle." * More recently 
another ivory-hunter, named Wahlberg, met a fate almosi 
precisely parallel. 


^ 4' 

• '' t 

Little inferior to the elephant in strength, though by no 
means approaching it in sagacity, the different species of 

: y 





' 4 

African rhinoceros manifest an irascibility against maii 
which waits not for provocation ; or rather the sight of a 
man is itself a sufficient provocation to excite a paroxysm of 
restless fury. Steedman f mentions a Hottentot who had 
acquired a reputation as a bold elephant-huater, who on 
one occasion had had his horse killed und>jr him by a 

* # 

I — 


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4 h 

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- V 


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- -i 


rhinoceros. Before he could raise his gun, the eiioi 

beast rushed upon him, thrust its sharp-point ad horn into 

the horse's chest, and threw him bodily, rider and all, 

over its back. The savage animal then, a; if satisfied, 

went off", without following up its victory, aj d before the 

Hottentot could recover himself sufficiently J 3r an a 
inor shot. : 

■ii- * t 

* - 

I ' 



^- ■--*<. 



; .'-MA 

Mr Oswell met with a similar rencontre. He 


- L 

stalking two of these beasts, and, as they a ^^ slowly to 


♦ Stoed man's Wandcrbi(j8, p. 74. v f Ibic' ■ % > 69. 


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him, he, knowing that there is but little chance of hitting 
the small brain of this animal by a shot in the head, lay 
expecting one of them to 
was within a few yards. 


his shoulder, till he 

The hunter then thouixht 


to his side he might succeed 

that by making a rush 
escaping ; but the rhinoceros, too quick for that, turned 
upon him, and though he discharged his gun close to the 
animal's head he was tossed in the air. " My friend/' adds 
Dr Livingstone, who gives the account, " was insensible for 
some time, and on recovering found large wounds on the 
thigh and body. I saw that on the former part, still open, 

and five inches long. 


The white species, 



*■ .'- -^ 

savage than the black, is not always quite safe, for one, 
even after it was mortally woimded, attacked Mr Oswcll's 
horse, and thrust the horn through to the saddle, tossing 
at the same tune both horse and rider.* 

The buffalo of the same regions is another animal 
of remarkable savageness of disposition, making an en- 
counter with him a formidable affair. The eminent 


Swedish botanist, Thunberg, was collecting plants in a 
wood with two companions, when a buffalo bull rushed on 
the party with a deafening roar. The men just saved their 
lives by springing into the trees, while two horses were 
speedily pierced through by the powerful horns, and killed. 
Captain Methuen has given us the following graphic 


account of an encounter. with this most vicious herbivore, 
which the Ca])e colonists consider a more dangerous foe 
than the lion himself. The gallant captain and his party 

Livingstone's Travels in Afnca^ p. 611, 


r ■ 

■ ^ 

k ^ ■ - 


had discovered a herd of b^iffaloes, and had wounded 
some, but they had escaped to cover. He had climbed on 
the low boughs of a small wait-a-bit thorn, whence he 
struck another bull. The wounded animal " ran towards 
the rejDort, his ears outstretched, his eyes moving in all 
directions, and his nose carried in a riaht line with the 


head, evidently bent on revenge ; — he passed within thirty 
yards of me, and was lost in the bush. Descending from 
my frail perch, Frolic [the Hottentot attendant] again dis- 
covered this buffalo standing: amono-st some small thick 

— ^ — _, 

bushes, which nearly hid him from view; his head was 
lowered, not a muscle of his body moved, and he was 
without doubt listening intently. We crept noiselessly 
to a bush, and I again fired. The huge brute ran for- 
wards up the wind, fortunately not in our direction, and 

stood still again. No good screen being near, and his 
nose facing our way, prudence bade us wait patiently for 
a change in the state of affairs. Presently he lay gently 
down, and knowing that buffaloes are exceedingly cun- 
ning, and will adopt this plan merely to escape notice and 
entrap their persecutors, we drew near with great caution. 
I ag^ain fired through his shoulder, and concludinf>; from 

his not attempting to rise, that he was helpless, we walked 
close up to him ; and never can the scene which followed 
be erased from my memory. Turning his ponderous 
head round, his eye caught our figures ; I fired the second 
barrel of my rifle behind his horns, but it did not reach 
the brain. His wounds gave him some difficulty in getting 
U]^, whicli just afforded Moneypenny and myself time to 


ensconce ourselves "behind the slender shrubs that grew 
round 'the spot, while Frolic unwisely took to his heels. 
The buffalo saw him, and uttering a continued unearthly 
noise, between a grunt and a bellow, advanced at a pace 
at which these unwieldy creatures are rarely seen to run, 
unless stirred by revenge. 
V J ¥' Crashing through the low bushes, as if they were 

h k 

stubble, he passed me, but charged quite over Money- 
penny's lurking-place, who aimed at him as he came on, 
and lodged the ball in the rocky mass of horn above 
his hiead : the bufTalo was so near at the time of his 


firing, that the horn struck the gun-barrels at the next 

instant ; but whether the noise and smoke confused the 
animal,''Or he was partially stunned by the bullet, he 
inissed my friend, and continued his pursuit of Frolic. 
-^"The Hottentot dodored the enrao^ed and terrific-lookinor 
briite/round the bushes, but through these slight obstacles 
he' dashed with ease, and gained ground rapidly, Speech- 
less, we watched the chase, and, in the awful moment, 
regardless of concealment, stood up, and saw the buffalo 
overtake his victim and knock him doAvn. At this crisis, 
my friend fired his second barrel into the beast, which 
gave Frolic one or two blows with his fore-feet, and push- 


ins his nose under, endeavoured to toss him: but the 

Hottentot, aware of this, lay with much presence of mind 

perfectly still. 

al'iMoneypenny now shouted to me, 'The buffalo is com- 
ing ; ' and, in darting round a bush, I stumbled on my rifle, 
cutting my knee very badly. This proved a false alarm ; 


and directly after the buffalo fell dead by Frolic, who 
then rose and limped towards us. He was much hurt, 
and a powder-flask which lay in his game-bag was 
stamped flat. The buff'alo was too weak to use his full 
strength upon him, having probably exhausted all his 
remaining energy in the chase : otherwise the Hottentot 
would undoubtedly have been killed, since a man is 
safer under the paws of a wounded lion, than under the 
head of an infuriated buffalo. Never did I feel more 
grateful to a protecting Providence, than when this poor 
fellow came to us ; for his escape without material injury 
was little short of miraculous." 

Who, that has looked on the meek, deer-like face of a 
kangaroo, would imagine thxt any danger could attend a 
combat with so gentle a creature? Yet it is well known 
that strong dogs are often killed by it, the kangaroo seiz- 
ing and hugging the dog with its fore-paws, while witli 


one kick of its muscular hind-leg, it rips up its antagonist, 

and tears out its bowels. Even to man there is peril, as 
appears from the following narrative. One of the hunter's 
dogs had been thus despatched, and he thus proceeds : 

" Exasperated by the irreparable loss of my poor dog, 
and excited by the then unusual scene before me, I 
hastened to revenge ; nothing doubting, that, with one 

fell swoop of my formidable club, my enemy would be 
prostrate at my feet. Alas ! the fates, and the still more 
remorseless white ants, frustrated my murderous inten- 
sions, and all but left me a victim to my strange and 

* Life in the Wilderness, p. 173. 





active 'foe. No sooner liad the heavy blow I aimed 
descended on his head, than my weapon shivered into a 
thousand pieces,* and I found myself in the giant embrace 

of my antagonist, who was hugging me with rather too 

warm a demonstration of friendship, and ripping at me in 
■ a way by no means pleasant. My only remaining dog, 

too, now thoroughly exhausted by wounds and loss of 
blood, and apparently quite satisfied of her master's 
superiority, remained a mute and motionless spectator of 
the new and unequal contest. 

< " Notwithstanding my utmost efforts to release myself 
from the grasp of the brute, they were unavailing ; and I 

my strength gradually diminishing, whilst, at the 
same time, my sight was obscured by the blood which 
now flowed freely from a deep wound, extending from the 
bacli part of my head over the whole length of my face. 
I was, in fact, becoming an easy prey to the kangaroo, 
who continued to insert, with renewed vigour, his talons 
into my breast, luckily, however, protected by a loose 
coarse canvas frock, which, in colonial phrase, is called a 


* jumper,' and but for which I must inevitably have shared 
the fate of poor Trip. As it was, I had almost given 
myself up for lost ; my head was pressed, with surpassing 
strength, beneath my adversary's breast, and a faiutness 
was gradually stealing over me, when I heard a long and 
• heart-stirring shout. Was' I to be saved ? The thought 
gave me new life: with increased power I grappled and 
succeeded in casting from me my determined foe; an 

The reader wiU find an explanation of this fact at page 106, mpra. 


seeing a tree close at hand, I made a desperate leap to 
procure its shelter and protection. I reached, and clung 
to it for support ; when the sharp report of a rifle was 
heard in my ear, and the bark, about three inches above 
my head, was penetrated by the ball. Another shot 
followed, with a more sure aim, and the exasperated 
animal (now once more within reach of me) rolled heavily 
over on its side. On the parties nearing, I found them to 
be my brother and a friend, who had at first mistaken 
me for the kangaroo, and had very nearly consummated 
what had been so strangely begun. How^ever, a miss is 
always as good as a mile ; and having recruited my spirits 
and strength with a draught from the never-failing 
brandy-flask, and sung a requiem over poor old Trip, my 
companions shouldered the fallen foe, by means of a large 
stake, one carrying each end, while I followed with weak 
and tottering steps. You may imagine that the little 
beauty I ever had is not much improved by the wound on 
my face, which still remains, and ever will. I am now an 
older hand at kangaroo-hunting, and never venture to 
attack so formidable an antagonist with an ant-eaten 


club ; my dogs, also, have grown too wary to rush heed- 
lessly within reach of his deadly rips. We have killed 
many since, but rarely so fine a one as that which first 
tried our mettle on the plains of New Holland." * 

f I 

The equatorial coast of Africa has recently yielded to 


European science a gigantic kind of man-like ape, which 
aftbrds a curious confirmation of an old classic story. 
Somewhere about the sixth century before the Chriotian 

* Sporting Review, ii., p. 343. 



> f ''■ • 

Hanno is reported to have sailed from Carthaf^e 

through the Pillars of Hercules, on a voyage of expl 

along the coast of Africa. In the record of this voyao-e 

xf" . ''['■' 

there occurs the following passage : — " Passing the Streams 
of Fire, we came to a bay called the Horn of the South. 
In the recess there was an island like the first, having a 

lake, and in this there was another island full of wild 

men. But much the greater part of them were women 
with hairy bodies, whom the interpreters called ' Gorillas. 
But pursuing them, we were not able to take the men ; 

they all escaped, being able to climb the precipices; 


and defended themselves with pieces of rock But 

■. :'> ■ > 

three women, who bit and scratched those who led them 

F f * 1 

"Were not willing to follow. However, having killed them 



we flayed them, and conveyed the skins to Carthage; 
for we did not sail any further, as provisions began to 



The " wild men " of the ancient navigator were doubt- 
less identical with the great anthropoid ape lately re-dis- 

I - -" - n 

covered, to which, in allusion to the old story, the name 


of Gorilla has been given. The region in question is a 
richly wooded country, extending about a thousand miles 


alons: the coast from the Gulf of Guinea southward ; and 
as the gorilla is not found beyond these limits, so we may 
pretty conclusively infer that the extreme point of Hanno 
was somewhere in this ref^ion. 

This great ape makes the nearest approach of any brute- 


animal to the human form ; it is fully equal to man in 


. • * Perijjlus, 



stature, but immensely more broad and muscular ; while 
its strengtli is colossal. Though exclusively a fruit-eater, 
it is described as always manifesting an enraged enmity 
towards man ; and no negro, even if furnished with fire- 
arms, will willingly enter into conflict with an adult male 
gorilla. He is said to be more than a match for the lion. 

The rivalry between the mighty ape and the elephant 
is curious, and leads to somewhat comic results. The old 
male is always armed with a stout stick when on the 
scout, and knows how to use it. The elephant has no 
intentional evil thoughts towards the gorilla, but unfor- 
tunately they love the same sorts of fruit. When the 
ape sees the elephant busy with his trunk among the 
twigs, he instantly regards it as an infraction of the laws 
of property ; and, dropping quietly down to the bough, he 
suddenly brings his club smartly down on the sensitive 
finger of the elephant's proboscis, and drives off the alarmed 
animal trumpeting shrilly with rage and pain. 

There must be something so wild and unearthly in the 
appearance of one of these apes, so demon-like in hideous- 
ness, in the solemn recesses of the dark primeval forest, 
that I might have told its story in the preceding chapter. 
The terrors with which it is invested are, however, more 
than imaginary. The young athletic negroes, in their 
ivory hunts, well know the prowess of the gorilla. He 
does not, like the lion, sullenly retreat on seeing them, 
but swings himself rapidly down to the lower branches, 
courting the conflict, and clutches at the foremost of his 
enemies. The hideous aspect of his visage, his -green eyes 



flashing witli rage, is heightened by the thick and pro- 
minent brows being drawn spasmodically up and down, 
with the hair erect, causing a horrible and fiendish scowl. 
Weapons are torn from their possessors* grasp, gun-barrels 

h -, 

bent and crushed in by the powerful hands and vice-like 

J » 

teeth' of the enraged brute. More horrid still, however, 
is the sudden and unexpected fate which is often inflicted 


by him. Two negroes will be walking through one of the 
woodland paths, unsuspicious of evil, when in an instant 
one misses his companion, or turns to see him drawn up 
in the air with a convulsed choking cry ; and in a few 
minutes dropped to the ground a strangled corpse. The 
terrified survivor gazes up, and meets the grin and glare 
of the fiendish giant, who, watching his opportunity, 
had suddenly put down his immense hind-hand, caught 
the wretch by the neck with resistless power, and dropped 
him oiily when he ceased to struggle. Sui'ely a horrible 
improvised gallows this ! * 

'The pursuit of the whale, whether that species which 
our hardy mariners seek amidst the ice-floes of the Polar 
Seas, or the still huger kind which wallows in the bound- 
less Pacific, is one full of peril, and its annals are crowded 
with stranoe and terrible adventures. Swift and sudden 
deaths ; the shattering of a boat into fragments, and the 
immersion of the crew in the freezing sea ; the dragging 
of a man into the depths, by a turn of the tangled line 
round his leg or arm ; are but too common incidents in 
this warfare with the leviathan. One instance of this last- 

♦ See Prof. Owen on the Gorilla {Proc. Zool. Soc, 1859). 


named accident is on record, in whicli the sufferer escaped 
with life, to tell the harrowing tale of his own sensations. 
An American whaling captain in the Pacific was fast 
to a sperm whale, which " sounded," or descended nearly 
perpendicularly. The line in swiftly running out became 
suddenly entangled; the captain was seen to stoop in 
order to clear it, and in a moment disappeared over the 
bow. The boat-steerer seized an axe, and instantly cut 
the line, in hope that, by the slackening, the unfortunate 


man might become freed. 

Several minutes had elapsed, and hope had wellnigh 
become extinguished, when an object was seen to rise to 
the surface a little way off. It was the body of the captain, 
which in a few seconds was lifted into the boat. Though 
senseless and motionless, life seemed to be not extinct, 


and the usual remedies being applied, he revived, and 
became, to use his own phrase, " as good as new," when 
he gave an account of his singular escape. 

It appears that in attempting to throw the line clear 
from the chock, a turn caught his left wrist, and he was 
dragged overboard by the descending whale. He was 
perfectly conscious as he was rushing down with immense 
rapidity, and it seemed to him as if his arm would be 
torn from its socket, from the resistance of his body to 
the water. Well aware of his peril, he knew that his only 
chance was to cut the line, but with his utmost efforts he 


could not raise his right hand from his side, to which it 
was pressed by the force with which he was dragged 
through the water. 



; ,/y On first opening his ej^es it appeared as if a stream of 
fire was passing before them ; but, as he descended, it 

• grew dark, and he felt a terrible pressure on his brain, 
.and there was a roarin nr as of thunder in his ears. Yet 

he still remained conscious, and still made vain efforts to 
..reach the knife that was in his belt. At length, as he 
) felt his strength failing, and his brain reeling, the line for 
. .an instant slackened by the whale's pausing in its descent ; 

he reached and drew his knife; the line again became 

tight, but the edge of the keen blade was across it, and in 
an instant he was freed. From this moment he remem- 
bered nothing, until he awoke to light and life and 
agonising pain, in his bed. 

Perhaps the reader is familiar with a dreadful example 

of the voracity of the great white shark. About thirty 

natives of the Society Islands were proceeding from isle 

ito isle in one of their lar^e double canoes. A storm 

* 1 1 . k 



coming on, the lashings of the two canoes were torn apart 
by the violence of the sea, and they were separated. 
Their depth and narrowness rendered them incapable of 
floating upright when single ; and, though the crew strove 
hard to keep them on an even keel by balancing the 
weight, they were every moment capsized. In these cir- 
cumstances, they endeavoured to form a raft of the loose 
spars and beams, the boards and paddles, which they could 
get at, hoping to drift ashore thereon. From their 
numbers, however, compared with the small size of the 
raft, the latter was pressed so deep, that the waves washed 
above their knees. At length they saw the horrid sharks 




begin to collect around them, which soon grew so bold as 
to seize one of the shipwrecked wretches, and drag him 
into the abyss. Another and another followed ; for the 
poor islanders, destitute of any weapons, and almost ex- 
hausted with hunger and fatio^ue, and crowded tofj-ether 

o — o 

on their submerged narrow jDlatform, could neither defend 
themselves nor evade their ferocious assailants. Every 
moment made the conflict more unequal, for the sharks, 
attracted by the scent of blood, gathered in greater numbers 
to the spot, and grew more and more audacious, until two 
or three of the mariners only remaining, the raft floated 
so as to elevate them beyond reach of the savage monsters, 
which continued to threaten them, and lingered around, 
until the waves at lengh bore the survivors to the beach. 

Among reptiles, the mailed crocodiles may be mentioned 
as formidable foes to man. Vast in bulk, yet grovelling 
with the belly on the earth ; clad in bony plates with 
sharp ridges, the long tail bearing a double row .of teeth, 
like two parallel saws ; splay feet terminating in long 
diverging hooked talons ; green eyes with a peculiar fiery 

are, gleaming out from below projecting orbits ; lips 
altogether wanting, displaying the long rows of interlock- 
ing teeth even when the mouth is closed, so that, even 
when quiet, the monster seems to be grinning with rage 
{" his teeth are terrible round about," Job xli. 14), — it is no 
wonder that the crocodile should be, in all countries which 
it inhabits, viewed with dread. 

Nor is this terror groundless. The crocodiles; both of 

^ 5 

1 * 

Nile and of the AVest Indian Isles, are well known 

Iff A 



make man their victim ; and the alligators of continental 
America are not behind them. Those of the great rivers 
of South America ai^pear to be more savage than their 

northern congener. Waterton and other observers have 
recorded terrible examples of their voracity ; and I will 
add one from a more recent traveller, an officer enixafred 

o o 

in the wars which liberated the South American provinces 
from the Spanish supremacy. 

During Moriilo's campaign in the Apliri country, three 
officers were on their route with despatches from Colonel 
Rangel's camp at Congrial, to General Paez's head-quarters 
at Caiia Fistola ; and, not being able to procure a canoe, 
were obliged to swim their horses over a small branch of 
the lagoon of Cunavichi, which lay across the road, carry- 
inoj as usual their saddles on their heads. Two of the 
party were brothers, by name Gamarra, natives of Varinas. 
One of them, a lieutenant of Paez's Lancers, loitered so 
long on the bank, as only to have just entered the water 
at the moment his comrades had reached the opposite side. 
When he was nearly half-way across, they saw a large 
cayman, which' was known to infest this pass, issuing 
from under the mangrove-trees. They instantly warned 
their companion of his danger ; but it was too late for 
him to turn back. When the alligator was so close as 
to be on the point of seizing him, he threw his saddle to 
it. ,. The ravenous animal immediately caught the whole 
bundle in its jaws, and disappeared for a few moments ; 
but soon discovered its mistake, and rose in front of the 
horse, which, then seeing it for the first time, reared and 


threw its rider. He was an excellent swimmer, and had 
nearly escaped by diving towards the bank ; but, on ris- 
ing for breath, his pursuer also rose, and seized him by 
the middle. This dreadful scene, which passed before 
their eyes, without the least possibility of their rendering 
any assistance, was terminated by the alligator, having 
previously drowned the unfortunate man, appearing on 
an opposite sand-bank with the body, and there devouring 


It is in this class of animals that we find the most 
terrible of all creatures ; more potent than the roused lion, 
the enraged elephant, the deadly shark, or the mailed 
alli2:ator. In the whole ranoje of animal existence, there 

is none that can compare with the venomous snakes for 
the deadly fatality of their enmity ; the lightning stroke 
of their poisonous fangs is the unerring signal of a swift 
dissolution, preceded by torture the most horrible. The 
bite of the American rattlesnake has been known to pro- 
duce death in two minutes. Even where the consumma- 
tion is not so fearfully rapid, its delay is but a brief pro- 
longation of the intense suffering. The terrible symp- 
toms are thus described : — a sharp pain in the part, which 
becomes swollen, shining, hot, red ; then livid, cold, and 
insensible. The pain and inflammation spread, and become 
more intense ; fierce shooting pains are felt in other 
parts, and a burning fire pervades the whole body. The 
eyes begin to water abundantly ; then come swoonings, 
cold sweats, and sharp pains in the loins. The skin be-. 

Camj[iaigns and Ci-uises in Venezuela, vol. i., p. 59. 

^ ^ 



- ft 

comes deadly pale or deep yellow, while a black watery 
blood runs from the wound, which changes to a yellowish 
matter. Violent headache succeeds, and giddiness, faint- 
ness, and overwhelming terrors, burning thirst, gushing 
discharges of blood from the orifices of the body, intoler- 
able fetor of breath, convulsive hiccoughs, and death. 
'^ Mr Francis T. Buckland * has described the awful effects 
of a dose of poison received from the cobra-di-capello 
in his own person. Fortunately it was a most minute 
dose, or we should not have received the account. A rat 
which had been struck by the serpent, Mr Buckland 

> ■ 

skinned after its death. He scraped the interior of the 
skin with his finger-nail, forgetting that he had an hour 
before been cleaning his nails with his penknife. In so 
doing, he had slightly separated the nail from the quick, 
and into this little crack the poison had penetrated. 
Thouixh the orifice was so small as to have been un- 
noticed, and though the venom was not received direct 
from the serpent, but had been diff"used through the system 
of the rat, the life of the operator was all but sacrificed. 

i A few years ago the people of London were shocked by 
the sudden death of Curling, one of the keepers of the 
Zoological 'Gardens, from the bite of a cobra. 

In India, where the species is common, its propensity 
to haunt houses frequently brings it under notice, and 
many accidents occur. -It seems, however, on some occa- 
sions to be placably disposed, if not assaulted; and some 
singular escapes are on record of persons who have had 

* Curiosities of Nat Iliat., p. 223. 



presence of mind enough to let it alone. One is told of 
an officer who, having some repairs done to his bungalow, 
was lying on a mattress in the verandah, reading, nearly 
imdressed. Perhaps his book was of a soporific tendency, 
for he dropped asleep, and awaked with a chilly sensation 
about his breast. Opening his eyes, he beheld, to his 
horror, a large cobra coiled up on his bosom, within his 


open shirt. He saw, in a moment, that to disturb the 
creature would be highly perilous, almost certainly fatal, 
and that it was at present doing no harm, and apparently 

intending none. With great coolness therefore he lay per- 

fectly still, gazing on the bronzed and glittering scales of 
the intruder. After a period which seemed to him an 
age, one of the workmen approached the verandah, and 
the snake at his footsteps left its warm berth, and was 
gliding off, when the servants at the cry of the artisan 
rushed out and destroyed it. 

It curiously happens that in some of the creatures whose 
rage is likely to be fatal to man, there should be some- 
thing in the physiognomy which puts him on his guard. 
We have seen that it is so in the sharks ; we have seen 
that it is so in the crocodiles ; it is so ]3re-eminently in 
the venomous serpents. There is in most of these an 
expression of malignity, which well indicates their deadly 
character. Their flattened head, more or less widened 
behind, so as to approach a triangular figure ; their wide 
gape, and the cleft tongue ever darting to and fro ; and, 
above all, the sinister expression of the glaring lidless eye, 
with its linear pupil : are sufficient to cause the observer 

- J 

; ' 


■to retreat with shuddering precipitancy. Darwin, speakin» 
of a sort of viper which he found at Bahia Blanca, says : 
•(^The expression of this snake's face was hideous and 
fierce ; the pupil consisted of a vertical slit in a mottled 
and coppery iris ; the jaws were broad at the base, and 
the' nose terminated in a triangular projection. I do not 
think I ever saw anything more ugly, excepting, perhaps, 
-some of the vampyre bats." 

*,> Many of the snakes of South America are higlily 
venomous. One of these is called, from its prowess and 
power, the bush-master. Frightful accidents occur in the 
forests of Guiana by this terrible species. Sullivan * gives 
us the following : his host, a few days before, had sent 
a negro to open some sluices on his estate ; but, as he did 
not return, the master, thinking he had run away, sent 
another negro to look after him ; this negro went to the 
place directed, and found the man quite dead, and swollen 
up to a hideous size. He was bitten in two places, and 
death must have been instantaneous, as he was not more 
than three feet from the sluice* They supposed that it 
must have been a bush-master that had killed him. The 


couni-couchi, or bush-master, is the most dreaded of all 
the South American snakes, and, as his name implies, he 
roams absolute master of the forest. They will not fly 
from man, like all other snakes, but will even pursue and 
attack him. They are. fat, clumsy-looking snakes, about 
four feet long, and nearly as thick as a man's arm ; their 
u\outh is unnaturally large, and their fangs are from one 

' . > 


BamLles in America, p. 406. 




to three inches in length. They strike with immense 
force ; and a gentleman who had examined a man after 
havino; been struck in the thiojh and died, told the narrator 

O ■— " - — -" - - — o 

that the wound was as if two four-inch nails had been 
driven into the flesh. As the poison oozes out from the 
extremity of the fang, any hope of being cured after a bite 
is small, as it is evident that no external application could 
have any immediate effect on a poison deposited an inch 
and a half or two inches below the surface ; the instan- 


taneousness of the death depends upon whether any large 
artery is wounded or not. 

The same traveller records the following shocking story 
about a very deadly snake, called the manoota, that infests 
the borders of the Lake of Valencia, in Venezuela : 

" An American we met related an anecdote of this 
snake, which, if true, was very frightful. He had gone 
in a canoe one night with a father and son, intending to 
shoot deer next morning on one of the islands in the 
lake. When they reached the island, the son, notwith- 
standing the rej)eated warnings of his father, jumped 
out ; but he had no sooner done so, than he gave an 
agonised yell, and fell back; the father immediately 
sprung out, but was also struck by the snake, but not so 
severely. They got the young man into the boat, but he 
swelled to a horrible size, and, bleeding at eyes, nose, and 
mouth, died in less than half-an-hour. Our friend and 
the father now set out on their return to Valencia with 
the dead body. A storm had in the meantime arisen, 
and they were in the greatest danger of being capsized 


The old man was suffering fearful agony from his bite, 
and had nearly gone out of his m.ind ; and the narrator 
described in graphic terms the horrors of his situation, in 
a frail canoe, in a dark night durino^ a severe storm and 

the momentary expectation of being capsized, his only 
companion being a mad father lamenting over the body 
of his dead son." * 

Even the most insignificant of creatures may be the 
scourge of the most exalted. We have seen some examj^les 
of insect pests in a former chapter, and of their ravages 
and successful assaults against man ; but that he should 
be actually slain in mortal conflict with a fly is something 
unusual. Yet last summer this happened in India. 

"Two European gentleman belonging to the Indian 
Railway Company, — viz., Messrs Armstrong and Bodding- 


ton^-were surveying a place called Bunder Coode, for the 
purpose of throwing a bridge across the Nerbudda, the 
channel of which, being in this place from ten to fifty 
yards wide, is fathomless, having white marble rocks 
rising perpendicularly on either side from a hundred to a 
hundred and fifty feet high, and beetling fearfully in some 
parts. Suspended in the recesses of these marble rocks 
are numerous large hornets' nests, the inmates of which 
are ready to descend upon any unlucky wight who may 
venture to disturb their repose. Now, as the boats of 
these European surveyors' were passing up the river, a 
cloud of these insects overwhelmed them; the boatmen 
as well as the two gentlemen jumped overboard, but, 

* Sullivan's Hamhles in iV. and S. America, p. 409» 

'' . 



alas! Mr Boddington, who swam and had succeeded in 
clinging to a marble block, was again attacked, and being 

able any 

resist the assaults of the countle 


hordes of his infuriated winged foes, threw himself into 
the depths of the water, never to rise again. On the fourth 
day his corpse was discovered floating on the water, and 
was interred with every mark of respect. The other 
gentleman, Mr Armstrong, and his boatmen, although very 
severely stung, are out of danger. 

Such is the story as narrated in the Times of Jan. 28, 
1859. But I have the pleasure of being personally 
acquainted with some of the members of the family of Mr 
Armstrong, who have assured me that the insects were not 
hornets, as represented, but honey-bees ; it may be not 
the hive-bee domesticated with us, but a species well 
known as making honey. Whatever the true nature of 
the insect, it affords an apt illustration of such passages of 
Holy Scripture as the following : — " The Lord shall hiss 
for . . . the bee that is in the land of Assyria." (Isa. viL 
1 8.) " The Lord thy God will send the hornet among 
them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from 

thee, be destroyed." (Deut. vii. 20.) 

And with this we shut up our " chamber of horrors. 



Ji - - i ■■ 

■ ( * ■ 


T ^ 

>-■ / . 


Letothllant tells us, in. his " Travels in the East/* that 
whenever he arrived at an eminence, whence he could 

f ' ' 

behold a distant mountain range, he felt an irrepressible 
desire to reach it; an unreasoning persuasion that it would 
afford something more interesting, more delightful, than 
anything which he had yet attained. The charm lay here, 
that it was unknown: the imagination can people the 

- i 

unexplored with whatever forms of beauty or interest it 
pleases ; and it does delight to throw a halo round it, the 
halo of hope. 

" 'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view, 
And clothes the mountain in its azure hue/' 


• One of the greatest pleasures of the out-of-door natu- 
ralist depends upon this principle. There is so great 
variety in the objects which he pursues, and so much 
uncertainty in their presence at any given time and place, 


that hope is ever on the stretch. He makes his excursions 
not knowing what he may meet with ; and, if disappointed 

of what he had pictured to himself, he is pretty sure to be 
surprised with something or other of interest that he had 
not anticipated. And much more does the romance of the 
unknown prevail to the natural history collector in a new 


and unexplored country. It has been my lot' to pursue 
various brandies of zoology, in regions where the pro- 
ductions were to science largely, to myself wholly, un- 
known. In a rich tropical island, such as Jamaica, where 
nature is prodigal in variety and beauty, and where, 
throughout the year, though there is change, there is no 
cessation of animal or vegetable activity, there was novelty 
enough in every day's opima spolia to whet the expecta- 
tion of to-morrow. Each morning's preparation was 
made with the keenest relish, because there was the 
undefined hope of good things, but I knew not what ; and 
the experience of each day, as the treasures were gloated 
over in the evening, was so different in detail from tliat 
of the preceding, that the sense of novelty never palled. 
If the walk was by the shore, the state of the tide, the 
ever varying wave-washings, the diverse rocks with their 
numerous pools and crannies and recesses, the cliffs and 
caves, the fishes in the shallows, the nimble and alert 
Crustacea on the mud, the shelled mollusca on the weed- 


beds, the echinoderms on the sand, the zoophytes on the 
corals, continually presented objects of novelty. If I rode 


with vasculum and insect-net and fowling-piece into the 
mountain- woods, there was still the like pleasino^ uncer- 

X' ^ o 

tainty of what might occur, with the certainty of abund- 
ance. A fine epiphyte orchid scents the air with fragrance, 
and it is discovered far up in the fork of some vast tree ; 
then there is the palpitation of hope and fear as we discuss 


the possibility .of getting it down ; then come contrivances 
and efibrts, — pole after pole is cut and tied together with 






_ H 

the cords which the forest-climbers afford. At length the 
plant is reached, and pushed off, and triumphantly bagged ; 
but lo ! while examining it, some elegant twisted shell is 
discovered, with its tenant snail, crawling on the leaves. 

"Scarcely is this boxed, when a gorgeous butterfly rushes 

of the gloom into the sunny glade, and is in a moment 
seen to be a novelty ; then comes the excitement of pur- 
suit; the disappointment of seeing it dance over a thicket 

■ but of sight; the joy of finding it reappear; the tantalising 
trial of watching the lovely wings flapping just out of 
reach ; the patient waiting for it to descend ; the tiptoe 

' approach as we see it settle on a flower ; the breathless 

' eagerness with which the net is poised ; and the trium- 

phant flush with which we contemplate the painted wings 
i within the gauze ; and the admiration with which we 


gaze on its loveliness when held in the trembling fingers. 
Another step or two, and a gay-plumaged bird rises 
from the bush, and falls to the gun ; we run to the spot 
and search for the game among the shrubs and moss ; at 
last it is found, admired, and committed to a little pro- 
tective cone of paper. Now a fern of peculiar delicacy 
appears ; then a charming flower, of which we search for 
ripe seed : a glittering beetle is detected crawling on the 
ray bark of a lichened tree ; here is a fine caterpillar 
feeding ; yonder a humming-bird hovering over a brilliant 



blossom ; and here a female of the same spangled bird 
sitting in her tiny nest. By and by we emerge into a 

pot where, for some cause or other 


ally congregated ; a dozen different kinds of butter 



flies are flitting to and fro in bewildering profusion of 
beauty, and our collecting-box is half filled in the 
course of an hour. Meanwhile we have shot two or three 
more birds ; caught a pretty lizard : seen a painted tree- 
frog, which escaped to be captured another day ; obtained 

some strange nondescript creatures under stones ; picked 
a beautiful spider from a web ; taken a host of banded 
shells; — and so the day wears on. And then in the evening 
what a feasting of the eager eyes as they gloat over the 
novelties, assigning each to its place, preparing such as 
need preparation, and recording the facts and habits that 
' help to make up the as yet unwritten history of all. 

I turn from my own experience to that of those who 
have, with similar tastes and similar pursuits, rifled still 
more prolific regions. Let ns hear Mr Bates, who for the 
last eleven years has been exploring the very heart of 
South America in the service of natural history, chiefly 
devoting himself to the gorgeous entomology of the great 
Valley of the Amazon. He has drawn a picture of an 
average day's proceedings, such as makes a brother natu- 
ralist's mouth water, and almost induces him to pack up 
his traps, and look out in The Times^ shipping column for 
the next ship sailing for Para : 

" The charm and glory of the country are its animal 
and vegetable productions. How inexhaustible is their 
study! Bemember that, as to botany, in the forest 
scarcely two trees of the same species are seen growing 
together. It is not as in temperate countries (Europe), a 
forest of oak, or birch, or pine — it is one dense jungle ; 




ri ^ 

the lofty forest trees, of vast variety of species, all lashed 
and connected by climbers, their trunk covered with a 

r t 

museum of ferns, tillandsias, arums, orchids, &o. The 
underwood consists of younger trees — great variety of 


small palms, mimosas, tree-ferns, &c. ; and the ground 


is laden with fallen branches — vast trunks covered with 


parasites, &c. The animal denizens are in the same way 

of infinite variety 

give the appe 

ance at once of tumultuous life, being too much scattered 
for that ; it is in course of time only that one forms an 
idea of their numbers. Four or five species of monkey 
are constantly seen. The birds are in such variety that it 
is not easy to get two or three of the same species. You 


N ' ' 

see a trogon one day ; the next day and the day after, 
another each day; and all will be different species. Quad- 
rupeds or snakes are seldom seen, but lizards are every- 
where met with; and sometimes you get tortoises, tree- 
frogs, &c. Insects, like birds, do not turn up in swarms 
of one species ; for instance, you take a dozen longicorns 
one day, and they are sure to be of eight or ten distinct 
species. One year of daily work is scarcely sufiicicnt to get 
the majority of species in a district of two miles' circuit. 

"Such is the scene of my present labours ; and all the 
rest of the Amazon is similar, though less rich ; the river 
Tapajos alone dififering, being a mountainous country. 
Having thus my work at hand, I will tell you how I pro- 
ceed. My house is in the centre of the town, but even 
thus only a few minutes' walk from the edge of the forest 
I keep an old and a young servant, on whom I rely for 





getting eatables and preparing my meals, so as to leave 
me unembarrassed to devote all my tliouglits to my work. 
Between nine and ten A.M. I prepare for the woods; a 
coloured shirt, pair of trousers, pair of common boots, 
and an old felt hat, are all my clothing; over my left 
shoulder slings my double-barrelled gun, loaded, one with 
No. 10, one with No. 4 shot. In my right hand I take 
my net, on my left side is suspended a leathern bag with 
two pockets, one for my insect-box, the other for powder 
and two sorts of shot ; on my right side hangs my " game- 
bag," an ornamental affair, with red leather trappings and 
thongs to hang lizards, snakes, frogs, or large birds. One 
small pocket in this bag contains my caps ; another, 
papers for wrapping up the delicate birds; others for 
wads, cotton, box of powdered plaster ; and a box with 
damped cork for the Micro-Lepidoptera ; to my shirt is 
pinned my pin-cushion, with six sizes of pins. A few 
minutes after enteriniy the edoje of the forest, I arrive 


in the heart of the wilderness ; before me nothing but 
forest for hundreds of miles. Many butterflies are found 
on the skirts of the forest; in the midst of numbers 
flitting about, I soon distinguish the one I want — often 
a new one — Erycinide, Hesperia, Thecla, or what not. 
Coleoptera you see nothing fine of at first ; a few 
minute Halticce on the leaves, or small CurcuUos, or 
Eumolpi. When you come to the neighbourhood of a 
newly-fallen tree, is soon enough to hunt closely for them ; 
not only wood- eating species, but all kinds seem to con- 
gregate there; Agras and Lehias in the folded leaves. 



grand Cassidce, and Erotyli, Rutelce, or Melohnthids, Gym- 
netis, &c. ;' often a Ctenostoma running along some slender 

twig/" It requires a certain kind of weather for Coleo- 
ptera, and some days all seem to be absent at once. 
' ' " Whilst I am about these things, I often hear the noise 
of birds above — pretty tanagers, or what not. You can- 
not see the colours of red, cobalt-blue, or beryl-green, 
when they are up in the trees; and it takes months of 
experience to know your bird. I have sometimes shot at 


small, obscure-looking birds up the trees, and when they 
have fallen, have been dazzled by their exquisite beauty. 
•'- " I walk about a mile straight ahead, lingering in rich 

■" 4( 

spots, and diverging often. It is generally near two P.M. 
when I reach home, thoroughly tired. I get dinner, lie 
in hammock a while reading, then commence preparing 
my captives, &c. ; this generally takes me till five P.M. In 
the evening I take tea, write and read, but generally in 

bed by nine. 

i I might quote similar details from Mr Wallace's letters, 
written while engaged in similar pursuits in a neighbour- 
ing part of the same mighty continent. But I prefer 
citing, in illustration of our subject, his observations made 
when, after having satiated himself in the west, he turned 
to the gorgeous east, and set himself to explore the virgin 
treasures of the remotest parts of the Indian Archipelago. 
Who cannot sympathise with his enthusiasm, when he 
says :— " I look forward with unmixed satisfaction to my 
visit to the rich and almost unexplored Spice Islands 



Zoologist, p. 5659, 


the land of the lories, of the cockatoos and the birds of 
paradise, the country of tortoise-shell and pearls, of beauti- 
ful shells and rare insects " ? And when, having visited 
them, and swept into his cabinet their riches, his eye is 
still towards the rising sun, and the gorgeous spoils of the 
unknown Papuan group are firing his imagination, he 
thus jots down his undefinable exjjectations : 

" I am going another thousand miles eastward to the 
Arru Islands, which are within a hundred miles of the 
coast of New Guinea, and are the most eastern islands of 
the Archipelago. Many reasons have induced me to go 
so far now. I must go somewhere to escape the terrific 
rainy season here. I have all along looked to visiting 
Arru as one of the great objects of my journey to the 
East ; and almost all the trade with Arru is from Macassar. 
I have an opportunity of going in a proa, owned and com- 
manded by a Dutchman, (Java-born,) who will take me 
and bring me back, and assist me in getting a house, &c., 
there ; and he goes at the very time I want to leave. I 
have also friends here with whom I can leave all the 
things I do not want to take with me. All these advan- 
tageous circumstances would probably never be combined 
again; and were I to refuse this opportunity I might 
never go to Arru at all ; which, when you consider it is 
the nearest place to New Guinea where I can stay on 
shore and w^ork in perfect safety, would be much to bo 
regretted. What I shall get there it is impossible to say 
Being a group of small islands, the immense diversity and 
richness of the productions of New Guinea will, of course, 



be wanting ; yet I tliink I may expect some approacli to 
the strange and beautiful natural productions of that 
unexplored country. Very few naturalists have visited 


One or two of the French discovery ships have 

touched it. M. Payen, of Brussels, was there, but stayed 
probably only a few days ; and I suppose not twenty 
specimens of its birds and insects are positively known. 
Here, then, I shall have tolerably new ground, and if I 
have health I shall work it well. I take three lads with 
me, two of whom can shoot and skin birds." * 

Such men as these are fast beating up the untrodden 
ground, and gathering into our museums and cabinets 
the natural history harvest of every land. Already we 
know the characteristic forms of almost all the regions of 

^^ * 

the earth ; and, though there yet remain great tracts un- 
explored, and these in the most teeming climes, yet from 
the productions of surrounding or contiguous districts we 
can pretty surely conjecture what forms they will yield, 
what sorts of forms, at least, though there 

gn mere may remain 

much of novelty in detail. When we consider that an 
ardent and most indefatigable entomologist, after spending 

eleven years in one region — the Valley of the Amazon, 
devoting his whole time and energy to searching after 
butterflies, yet finds new species turning up, in almost 
unabated profusion, and that every little district visited, 
though but a few miles 'distant from the last, has its own 
peculiar, though allied kinds, we may form some idea of 
the vast variety and abundance of unknown insects which 


; ^Zoologist, pp. 5117, 5656. 


the almost boundless forests of South America have yet 
to yield to scientific enterprise. 

Yet in all this profusion, it is almost wholly new species 
of already recognised genera that constitute the reward 
of perseverance. It is comparatively rare to capture a 
butterfly so different from anything before known as to 
warrant the formation of a new genus ; and the occurrence 
of a new family is almost out of the question. 

Then, again, throughout that immense region, so little 

explored by competent naturalists, w^e can assert with a 
measure of confidence that no great mammal, scarcely any 
conspicuous bird, is at all likely to be added to those 
already known, with the exception of additional species 
of characteristic . and large groups, such as the trogons, 
the tanagers, the toucans, or the humming-birds. At the 
same time, we may well believe that many of the smaller 
mammalia, and a still greater number of the sombre- 
coloured birds, have been as yet unnoticed. 

It is, however, possible that a great anthropoid ape 

may exist, as yet unrecognised by zoologists. On the 

cataracts of the upper Orinoco, Humboldt heard reports 
of a " hairy man of the woods," which was reputed to 
build huts, to carry off women, and to devour huinan 
flesh. The first and second of these attributes are so 
characteristic of the great anthropoid Simice of Africa, 
that, unless the belief has been transferred from the one 
continent to the other, (a circumstance little probable, 
when we think of the seat of the report, in the very heart 
of the forests of Venezuela,) their adduction gives a 





measure of authority to the statement; while the third 
would be a very natural inference from such ferocity as 
animates the gorilla. Both Indians and missionaries 
•firmly believe in the existence of this dreaded creature, 
which they call vasitri, or " the great devil." Humboldt 
suggests that the original of what he boldly calls " the 
fable," may exist in the person of " one of those large 
bears, the footsteps of which resemble those of man, and 
which are believed in eveiy country to attack women ;" 
and he seems to claim credit for being the only person 
to doubt the existence of the great anthropomorphous 
monkey of America. But it might be permitted, in return, 
to ask what "large bear"* is known to inhabit Venezuela ; 
and whether it is true that bears' footsteps have a signal 
resemblance to those of men ; and that bears specially 
attack women. Is not such a bear in South America quite 
as gratuitous as the monkey himself ? And, since species 
of Quadrumana are characteristic of the forests of that 
region, may it not be possible that some one rivalling 
man in stature and strength, may there exist, as well as 
in Africa and the Oriental Archipelago? The mighty 
gorilla himself has only just been introduced to us. 
- The immense, almost continental, islands of the eastern 
hemisphere, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and, above all, Papua, 
hold, it is likely, more unknown animals than the Western 
Continent. Yet the r^iark just made will hold gocd 
here also, — that we may rather expect new species of well- 
known genera, than any really new forms. Again, nearly 
half of the Australian continent is within the tropics, and 



this is absolutely virgin ground to the naturalist ; but 
what we know of the poverty of the Australian fauna does 
not encourage any extravagant expectation of novelties, 
even from so vast an expanse of intertropical country : 
some new genera of marsupial mammalia, and a good 
many birds and reptiles, may possibly remain to be dis- 
covered. Papua, if it is indeed continuous land and not 
a group of islands, is the most promising region in this 
quarter to the naturalist : it is a land of hope, immense 
in area, and covered with virgin forest^ producing birds 
and insects the most magnificent in the world, and yet 
only just glimpsed here and there on the coast. We may 
expect great things from it when explored ; and cannot 
but hope that Mr "Wallace, whose longings have just been 
recorded, may yet find opportunity, with safety to himself, 
of satisfying the desire of his heart. 

The interior of China is a great region scarcely seen by an 
European eye ; and its mountainous districts especially are 
doubtless rich in animal and vegetable productions as yet 
unknown to science. But the incredibly crowded condi- 
tion of its human population, and the diligence with which 
every available inch of land is cultivated, are circum- 
stances which militate against the existence of wild ani- 


mals and plants.* Japan will probably fall under the 

L — ■ 


but a few degrees from the equator, thus complains of the antagonism 
of cultivation to natural history : — " There is nothing but dusty roads 
and paddy fields for miles around, producing no insects or birds worth 
collecting. It is really astonishing, and will be almost incredible to 
many persons at hom^^, that a tropical country, when cultivated, should 


I " F 

• - '-> 

I - 


same conditions; and, in a less degree, the further penin- 
sula of India. But of this last considerable portions are 
mountainous, well watered with great rivers, and covered 
.with forests ; all circumstances favourable to natural his- 
tory. ; The jealousy of the native governments has tended 
to shut up these regions from Europeans, and we may 
reasonably expect that important discoveries may yet re- 
main in the immense intertropical countries of Cochin 
China, Cambodia, Siam, Laos, and Burmah ; countries 
where the elephant attains his most colossal dimensions, 
where the two-horned rhinoceros roams the jungle, and 
where the camphor and the gutta-percha grow. 
i ' Madagascar is another land of promise. Here, too, 
mountain and forest prevail ; situation is favourable ; and 
we know almost nothing of the interior; It appears to 
be remarkably destitute of the greater Mammalia, but Mr 
Ellis's late researches shew how rich it is in strange forms 
of vegetation ; and doubtless it will prove to be the home 
of many unknown birds, reptiles, and insects. 


Africa is the land of wild beasts. The grandest forms 

produce so little for the collector. The worst collecting ground in 
England would produce ten times r.s many species of beetles as can be 
found here; and even our common English butterflies are finer and 
more numerous than those of Ampanam in the present dry season. A 
walk of several hours with my net will produce, perhaps, two or three 
species of Chrysomela, and Coccinella^ and a Cidndelaj and two or three 
Hcmij^tera and flies j and every day the same species will occur. In 
an uncultivated district which I have visited, in the south part of the 
island, I did indeed find insects rather more numerous, but two months' 
assiduous collecting have only produced me eight species of Cohoptera. 
Why, there is not a spot in England where the same number could not 
be obtained in a few days in spring." — Zoologist, p. 5415. 


of tlie terrestrial creation have tlieir habitation in that 
continent. The elephant, the hippopotamus, several dif- 
ferent sorts of rhinoceros, the zebra, the quagga, the 
giraffe ; multitudes of antelopes, some of them of colossal 
dimensions ; the buffalo ; the gorilla, the chimpanzee, the 
mandril, and other baboons and monkeys ; the lion, the 
panther, the leopard ; — these are only the more prominent 
of the quadrupeds which roam the plains and woods of 
Africa. Thinly peopled and little cultivated; a region 
enclosed between sixty degrees of latitude, bisected by the 
equator, and (in its widest part) between as many of lon- 
gitude ; of which, i3erhaps, more than three-fourths are 
only now just beginning to be penetrated by the straggling 
foot of the European explorer and missionary ; — what may 
we not expect of the vast, the uncouth, the terrible, among 
the creatures which lurk as yet unsuspected in the teem- 
ing wilds of Central Africa ? Perhaps less, however, after 
all, than at first view appears probable. It is remarkable 
that the explorations of the adventurous Livingstone from 
the south, and of Barth and others from the north — ex- 
plorations which have immensely diminished the extent 
of absolutely unknown land — have contributed almost 
nothing to what we previously knew of the natural his- 
tory of the continent. The most important recent addi- 
tion to zoology is, undoubtedly, the gorilla ; but this 
discovery was not the result of geographic extension, the 
animal inhabiting the forests of a line of coast frequented 
for centuries by European traders. The great pioneers 
alluded to wore not strictly naturalists, it is true ; and 




their immediate object was not to make discoveries in 
zoology ; nay, their interest would lie in avoiding, so far 
s possible, the haunts of unknown savage animals ; but, 
in the case of Dr Livingstone particularly, his frequent 
encounters with such as were already well known, and his 
intelligent spirit of inquiry, leave no room for supposing 
that any conspicuous forms inhabit the regions through 
which he penetrated, different from those. 

I am therefore inclined to believe, that whatever dis- 
coveries of importance are yet to be made in African 
zoology, will be in the very central district ; the regioi 
that is, which lies south of Lake Tchad and Abyssinia, 
and extends to the equator. There is reason to suj)pose 
that lofty mountain-chains exist here, and geographical 
discovery has not yet even approached these parts. Many 
forms of high interest, and some of them of vast dimen- 

sions, may yet be hidden there. 

It is highly probable that an animal of ancient renown, 
and one in which England has (or ought to have) a pecu- 
liar interest, resides in the region just indicated. I refer 
to one of the supporters of Britain's shield, the famed 
Unicorn. We may not, to be sure, find him exactly what 
the heraldic artists delight to represent him — a sort of 
mongrel between a deer and a horse, with cloven hoofs, a 
tuft-tipped tail, and a horn spirally twisted to a point ; 
but there may be the original of the traditionary portrait 
of which this is the gradually corrupted copy. 

Dr Andrew Smith, an able and sober zoologist, who 
has investigated with much enterprise and success the^ 


zoology of South Africa, has collected a good deal of in« 
formation about a one-horned animal which is yet unknown 
to Europeans, and which appears to occupy an interme- 
diate rank between the massive rhinoceros and the lighter 
form of the horse. Cavassi, cited by Labat, heard of such 
a beast in Congo under the name of A hada ; and Eiippel 
mentions it as commonly spoken of in Kordofan, where it 
is called Nillekma, and sometimes Arase — that is, uni- 
corn. Mr Freeman, the excellent missionary whose name 
is so intimately connected with Madagascar, received the 
most particular accounts of the creature from an intelli- 
gent native of a region lying northward from Mozambique. 
According to this witness, an animal called the Ndzoo- 
dzoo is by no means rare in Makooa. It is about the 
size of a horse, extremely fleet and strong. A single horn 
projects from its forehead from two feet to two and a-half 
feet in length. This is said to be flexible when the animal 
is asleep, and can be curled up at pleasure, like an ele- 
phant's proboscis ; but it becomes stiff" and hard under 
the excitement of rage. It is extremely fierce, invariably 
attacking a man whenever it discerns him. The device 
adopted by tlie natives to escape from its fury, is to climb 
a thick and tall tree out of sight. If the enraged animal 
ceases to see his enemy, he presently gallops away ; but, if 
he catches sight of the fugitive in a tree, he instantly com- 
mences an attack on the tree with his frontal horn, borino- 
and ripping it till he brings it down, when the wretched 
man is presently gored to death. If the tree is not very 
bulky, the perseverance of the creature usually succeeds 

Ti ' 


in overturning it. His fury spends itself in goring and 
mangling the carcase, as he never attempts to devour it. 
The female is altogether without a horn.* 
^'•'When in the neighbourhood of the tropic, Dr Smith 
himself heard reports of a similar creature inhabiting the 
country north of that parallel. The persons who professed 
to be personally familiar with it, as well as a new kind of 
rhinoceros allied to R. Keitloa, were only visitors in the 
country it was said to inhabit, and, therefore, were unable 


to afford any very circumstantial evidence. It was, how- 
ever, described as very different from any species of rhi- 
noceros they had ever seen, with a single long horn situated 
towards the forehead. Dr Smith then cites the particu- 
lars given by Mr Freeman, introducing them with the 
following just observations : 

"Now, though descriptions of objects by such persons 
are often inaccurate, from the circumstance of their not 
having been favourably situated for making correct obser- 
vations, as well as from a deficiency of language calculated 
to convey the information they actually possess, I have 
always remarked, that even a hasty examination seemed 
to supply the savage with more accurate notions of the 
general character of animals, than it did the civilised 
man ; and, therefore, I do not despair of species such as 
these mentioned being yet discovered. It is in regard to 


the species with the single horn that we experience the 
greatest hesitation in receiving their evidence as credible ; 
and therefore, it is agreeable to have it corroborated by 


^ I 


South Afr. Christian Recorder, voL i. 



the testimony of a man from a very different part of the 
country, as obtained and published by a missionary of 
great research, who resided a long time in Madagascar."* 
The rude drawings made by savages are often faithful 
delineations of the salient features of the objects familiar 
to them. Sir J. Barrow, in his Travels in Africa, has 
given the head of an unicorn, answering well to the ndzoo- 
dzoo, which was copied from a charcoal sketch made by a 
Caffre in the interior of a cavern. The copy was made by 
Daniell ; and Colonel Hamilton Smith mentions having 
seen, among the papers of this artist, another drawing 
likewise copied from the walls of an African cave. In this 
were represented, with exceedingly characteristic fidelity, 
several of the common antelopes of the country, such as a 
group of elands, the hartebeest, and the springbok; while 


among them appeared, with head and shoulders towering 
above the rest, an animal having the general character of 
a rhinoceros, but, in form, lighter than a wild bull, having 
an arched neck, and a long nasal horn projecting in the 


form of a sabre. " This drawing," observes the Colonel, 
" is no doubt still extant, and should be published; but, in 
confirmation of the opinion that truth exists to a certain 
extent in the foregoing remarks, it may be observed that 
we have seen, we believe in the British Museum, a horn 
brought from Africa, unlike those of any known species 
of rhinoceros : it is perfectly smooth and hard, about 
thirty inches in length, almost equally thick throughout, 
not three inches in its greatest diameter, nor less than twn 

* IllvLstr. of ZooL of South AjHca, 


-. '■ J 


in its smaller, and rather sharp pointed at top : from the 
narrowness of the base, its great length and weight, the 

^ l^ 

Ln ^ 

horn must evidently stand moveable on the nasal bones 
until excitement renders the muscular action more riirid 

and the coriaceous sole which sustains it more firm. — cir- 

• ' ' ' i 

cumstances which may ex^Dlain the repeated assertion of 

' P 

natives, that the horn, or rather the ao^slutinated hair 
which forms that instrument, is flexible.* 
; Much more recently, accounts have reached Europe of 

the same nature, confirmatory of the former, inasmuch as 
much of the value of such evidence consists in its cumu- 


lative character; but still only hearsay report. M. Antoine 
d'Abbadie, writing to the Athenceum from Cairo, gives the 

1 i" 

following account of an animal new to European science, 
which account he had received from Baron Von Miiller 

f V 

& - 

V'ho had recently returned to that city from Kordofan: 
" At Melpes, in Kordofan," said the Baron, " where I 

* - 

stopped some time to make my collections, I met, on the 
17th of April 1848, a man who was in the habit of selling 
to me specimens of animals. One day he asked me if I 
wished also for an A'nasa, which he described thus : — It 
is the size of a small donkey, has a thick body and thin 



bones, coarse hair, and tail like a boar. It has a long 
horn on its forehead, and lets it hang when alone, but 
erects it immediately on seeing an enemy. It is a formid- 
able weapon, but I do not know its exact length. The 
A'nasa is found not far from here, (Melpes,) towards the 
S.S.W. I have seen it often in the wild grounds, where the 

Cyclop. Bihl. Lit, Art. Reejt. 


* f 


negroes kill it, and carry it home to make shields from 

its skin, • 

''N.B. — This man was well acquainted with the rhino- 
ceros, which he distinguished, under the name of Fetit, 
from the A'nasa. On June the 14th I was at Kursi, 


also in Kordofan, and met there a slave-merchant who 


was not acquainted with my first informer, and gave me 
spontaneously the same description of the A'nasa, adding 
that he had killed and eaten one not long ago, and that its 
flesh was well flavoured/' * 

Almost as little known as the heart of Africa are the 
depths of ocean. The eye penetrates in the clear crystal- 
line sea a few fathoms down, and beholds mailed and 
glittering forms flitting by ; the dredge gathers its scrap- 
ings ; divers plunge out of sight, and bring up pearls ; 
and the sounding-lead goes down, down, down, hundreds 
of fathoms, and when it comes up, we gaze with eager 

eyes to see what adheres to the tallow " arming ;" the tiny 
shells, the frustules of diatoms, even the atoms of coral 
sand, — curious to learn what is at the bottom of the deep. 
But, after all, it is much like the brick which the Greek 
fool carried about as a sample of the house he had to let. 
Who can penetrate into the depths of the ocean to trace 
the arrowy course of the mailed and glittering beings 
that shoot along like animated beams of light ? Who can 
follow them to their rocky beds and coral caverns ? The 
wandering mariner sees with interested curiosity the flying- 
fishes leaping in flocks from the water, and the eager 

* AthencBum, Jan. 3849. 


bonito rushing after tliem in swift pursuit ; but who can 
tell what the flying-fish is doing when not pursued, or how 
the bonito is (^ngaged when the prey is not before him ? 
How many pleasing traits of conjugal or parental attach- 
ment the waves of the fathomless sea may conceal, we 
know not : what ingenious devices for self-protection ; 
what structures for the concealment of eggs or offspring ; 
what arts of attack and detence ; what manoeuvrinirs and 
stratagems ; what varied exhibitions of sagacity, fore- 
thought, and care ; what singular developments of in- 
stinct ; — who shall tell ? 

' The aquarium has, indeed, already enlarged our acquaint- 
ance with the curious creatures that inhabit the waters ; 
and not a few examples of those habits and instincts that 
constitute animal biography, have by this means been 
broufjht to li2;lit. Much more w^ill doubtless be learned 
by the same instrumentality ; but there will still remain 
secrets which the aquarium will be powerless to resolve. 
From its very nature it can deal only with the small, 
and those which are content with little liberty ; for the 
multitude of large, unwieldy, swift-finned races, which 
shoot athwart the deep, and for the countless hosts of tiny 
thinsfs, to whose organisation even the confinement of a 
vessel is speedy death, we must find some other device 
before we can cultivate acquaintance with them. 

It is true, we can put together a goodly number of indi- 
vidual objects, which various accidents have from time to 
time revealed to us from the depths, and form them into 
an imaginary picture. Schleiden has done this, and a 


lovely delineation lie has made. You have only to gaze 
on it, to admire it : I would not abate your admiration ; 
I admire it too : — but remember, after all, it is but a fancy 
sketch of the unknown ; it is only ''founded on fact/' 

" We dive/' he observes, " into the liquid crystal of the 
Indian Ocean, and it opens to us the most wondrous 
enchantments of the fairy tales of our childhood's dreams. 
The strangely branching thickets bear living flowers. 
Dense masses of Meandrinas and Astrseas contrast with 
the leafy, cup-shaped expansions of the Explanarias, the 
variously-ramified Madrepores, which are now spread out 
like fingers, now rise in trunk-like branches, and now 
display the most elegant array of interlacing branches. 
The colouring surpasses everything : vivid green alternates 
with brown or yellow ; rich tints of purple, from pale red- 
brown to the deepest blue. Brilliant rosy, yellow, or 
peach-coloured NuUipores overgrow the decaying masses, 
and are themselves interwoven with the pearl-coloured 
plates of the Retipores, resembling the most delicate ivory 
carvings. Close by, wave the yellow and lilac fans, per- 
forated like trellis-work, of the Gorgonias. The clear 
sand of the bottom is covered with the thousand strano^e 
forms and tints of the sea-urchins, and star-fishes. The 
leaf -like Flustras and Escharas adhere like mosses and 
lichens to the branches of the corals ; the yellow, green, 
and purple-striped Limpets cling like monstrous cochineal 
insects upon their trunks. Like gigantic cactus-blossoms. 


sparkling in the most ardent colours, the Sea-anemones 
expand their crowns of tentacles upon the broken rocks. 

K V 


or more modestly embellish the bottom, looking like beds 
. of variegated ranunculuses. Around the blossoms of the 
■ coral shrub§ play the humming-birds of the ocean, — little 
fish sparkling with red or blue metallic glitter, or gleam- 
ing in golden green, or in the brightest silvery lustre. 
< f' • ^' Softly, like spirits of the deep, the delicate milk-white 
or bluish bells of the jelly-fishes float through this charmed 
world. Here the gleaming violet and gold-green Isabelle, 
and the flaming yellow, black, and vermilion-striped 
Coquette, chase their prey ; there the band-fish shoots, 
snake-like, through the thicket, like a long silver ribbon, 
glittering with rosy and azure hues. Then come the 
fabulous cuttle-fish, decked in all colours of the rainbow, 
but marked by no definite outline, appearing and dis- 
• appearing, intercrossing, joining company and parting 
again, in most fantastic ways ; and all this in the most 
rapid change, and amid the most wonderful play of light 
and shade, altered by every breath of wind, and every 
slight curling of the surface of the ocean. When day 

declines, and the shades of night lay hold upon the deep, 
this fantastic garden is lighted up in new splendour. 
Millions of glowing sparks, little microscopic IMedusas and 
Crustaceans, dance like glow-worms through the gloom. 
The Sea-feather, which by daylight is vermilion-coloured, 
waves in a greenish, phosphorescent light. Every corner 
of it is lustrous. Parts which by day were dull and 
brown, and retreated from the sight amid the universal 


brilliancy of colour, are now radiant in the most wonder- 
ful play of green, yellow, and red light ; and to complete 





the wonders of the enchanted night, the silver disc, six 
feet across, of the moon-fish,* moves, slightly luminous, 
amonc^ the crowd of little sparkling stars. 


" The most luxuriant vegetation of a tropical landscape 
cannot unfold as great wealth of form, while in the variety 
and splendour of colour it would stand far behind this 
garden landscape, which is strangely composed exclusively 
of animals, and not of plants ; for, characteristic as the 
luxuriant development of vegetation of the temperate 
zones is of the sea-bottom, the fulness and multiplicity 
of the marine Fauna is just as prominent in the regions 
of the tropics. Whatever is beautiful, wondrous, or un- 
common in the great classes of fish and echinoderms, 
jelly-fishes and polypes, and the molluscs of all kinds, is 
crowded into the warm and crystal waters of the tropical 
ocean, — rests in the white sands, clothes the rough clifis, 

clings where the room is already occupied, like a parasite, 
upon the first comers, or swims through the shallows and 
depths of the element — while the mass of the vegetation 
is of a far inferior magnitude. It is peculiar in relation 
to this, that the law valid on land, according to which 
the animal kingdom, being better adapted to accommodate 
itself to outward circumstances, has a greater difi'usion 
than the vegetable kingdom ; — for the Polar Seas swarm 
with whales, seals, sea-birds, fishes, and countless numbers 
of the lower animals, even where every trace of vegetation 
has long vanished in the eternally frozen ice, and the cool 


sea fosters no sea-weed ; — that this law, I say, holds good 

* Orthagorisciis moZa. 



also for the sea, in the direction of its depth ; for when 
we descend, vegetable life vanishes much sooner than the 
animal, and, even from the depths to which no ray of 
light is capable of penetrating, the sounding-lead brings 
up news at least of living infusoria." 




Who has not felt, when lookinof over a boat's side into 

? Even 

the clear crystal depth, a desire to go and explore ? 
on our own coasts, to see the rich luxuriant forests of 
Laminaria or Alaria, waving their great brown fronds 
to and fro, over which the shell-fishes crawl, and on which 
the green and rosy-fingered Anemones expand like flowers, 
while the pipe-fishes twine about, and the brilliant wrasses 

dart out and in, decked in scarlet and gr 


** than the singular clearness of 

sight, and one which I have often gazed on with admiration. 
^ f Nothing can be more surprising and beautiful," says 
Sir A. de Capell Brooke, 
the water of the Northern Seas. As we passed slowly 
over the surface, the bottom, which here was in general 
a white sand, was clearly visible, with its minutest objects, 
where the depth was from twenty to twenty-five fathoms. 
Durinoj the whole course of the tour I made, nothino: 
appeared to me so extraordinary as the inmost recesses 
of the deep unveiled to the eye. The surface of the ocean 
was unruffled by the slightest breeze, and the gentle 
splashing of the oars scarcely disturbed it. Hanging over 
the gunwale of the boat, with wonder and delight I gazed 
on the slowly moving scene below. Where the bottom 
was sandy, the different kinds of Asterias, Echinus, and 

* Sciileiden's Lectures, pp. 403-406. 


f' ^ 



even the smallest shells, appeared at that great depth 
conspicuous to the eye ; and the water seemed, in some 
measure, to have the effect of a magnifier, by enlarging 
the objects like a telescope, and bringing them seemingly 

Now, creeping along, we saw, far beneath, the 


rising towards our boat, the 

rugged sides of a mountain 
base of which, perhaps, was hidden some miles in the great 
deep below. Though moving on a level surface, it seemed 
almost as if we were ascending the height under us ; and 
when we passed over its summit, which rose in appearance 
to within a few feet of our boat, and came again to the 
descent, which on this side was suddenly perpendicular, 
and overlooking a watery gulf, as we pushed gently over 
the last point of it, it seemed as if we had thrown ourselves 
down this precipice ; the illusion, from the crystal clear- 

ness of the deep, actually producing a start. 



came again to a plain, and passed slowly over the sub- 
marine forests and meadows, which appeared in the 
expanse below ; inhabited, doubtless, by thousands of 
animals, to which they afford both food and shelter 
animals unknown to man ; and I could sometimes observe 
large fishes of singular shape gliding softly through the 
watery thickets, unconscious of what was moving above 

As we proceeded, the bottom became no longei* 


visible; its fairy scenes gradually faded to the view, and 
were lost in the dark green depths of the ocean." 


* Travels in Not -way, p. 195. 

: \ 


^ '^ 


■h -f 

L ^ 


'V ^ 


J .* ' 

A SAILOR lad, after his first voyage, having returned to 
his country home, was eagerly beset for wonders. * 


Among other things he 

hast t' seen in furrin parts ? '' 
reported having been where the rum flowed like rivers, and 
sugar formed whole mountains. At last, his inventive 
powers being exhausted, he began to speak of the shoals 
of tropical flying-fishes, a phenomenon which his familiar 

sight had long ceased to regard as a wonder. 

But here 

his aged mother thought reproof needful ; raising her 


ipectacles, and frowning in virtuous indignation, she 

4 _ 

said, " Nae, nae, Jock ! mountains o* sugar may be, and 
rivers o' rum may be ; but fish to flee ne'er can be ! " 

Old Dame Partlet did only what philosophers in all ages 
have done ; she had formed her schedule of physical 
possibilities, outside of which nature could not go ; nay, 
must not go. It so happened, however, that old Dame 
Nature was obstreperous, and refused to be confined within 
possibilities ; and the lawless fishes fly to this day, in spite 
of Dame Partlet's virtuous protest. 

There are several questions in natural science which are 
questiones vexatoe, because a certain amount of evidence 
of facts is on one side, and a certain amount of presump- 


tion of impossibility orl the other. If eye-witnesses (or 
those who present themselves as such) could decide the 
points, they would have been decided long ago ; but those 
who are believed to be best acquainted with natural laws 
claim that theoretic impossibilities should overpower even 
ocular demonstration. There is far more justice in this 
claim than appears at first sight. The power of drawing 
correct inferences from what we see, and even of knowing 
what we do really see, and what we only imagine, is vastly 
augmented by the rigorous training of the faculties which 
long habits of observing certain classes of phenomena 


induce ; and every man of science must have met with 
numberless cases in which statements egregiously false 
have been made to him in the most perfect good faith ; 
his informant implicitly believing that he was simply 
telling what he had seen with his own eyes. A person 
the other day assured me, that he had frequently seen 
humming-birds sucking flowers in England : I did not set 
him down as a liar, because he was a person of indubitable 
honour ; his acquaintance with natural history, however, 
was small, and he had fallen into the very natural error 
of mistaking a moth for a bird. 

It is quite proper that, when evidence is presented of 
certain occurrences, the admission of which would over- 
turn what we have come to consider as fixed laws, or 
against which there exists a high degree of antecedent 
improbability, — that evidence should be received with 
great suspicion. It should be carefully sifted ; possible 
causes of error should be suggested ; the powers of the 


observer to judge of the facts should be examined : the 
actual bounding line between sensuous perception and 
mental inference should be critically investigated ; and 
confirmatory, yet independent, testimony should be sought. 
Yet, when we have done all this, we should ever remember 
that truth is stranger than fiction ; that our power to 
judge of fixed laws is itself very imperfect ; and that 
indubitable phenomena are ever and anon brought to 
light, which compel us to revise our code. It is only a 



few years since the existence of metamorphosis in the 
Crustacea, when first announced, was scouted as absurd 
by naturalists of high reputation ; and the wide pre- 
valence of what is called Parthenogenesis in the Insecta 
is even now lau<]jhinoj to scorn what had seemed one of 
the most immutable laws of physiology. 
r^ I propose, then, to examine a few questions in natural 
history, the very mooting of which * is enough with many 
to convict the inquirer of wrong-headedness and credulity. 
High authorities — deservedly high, and entitled to speak 
ex cathedra — have pronounced verdicts on them ; and 
numbers of inferior name (as usual, going far beyond 
their teachers,) are ready to treat with ridicule those 
who venture to think that, in spite of the avro^ €(j)a, any 


♦ '' 


Experience/* says Sir J, W. Herschell, "once recognised 

fountain of all our knowledge of nature, it follows that, in the study of 



notion of what might, or what ought to he, the order of nature in any 


fact, what ii" — Prdim. 




otlier conclusion can possibly be tenable. I by no means 
wish to appear as a partisan in treating such questions j 
perversely adducing evidence only on one side, and cu- 
shioning or distorting what might be said on the other; 
but honestly to weigh the proof on both sides, so that the 
reader may be able to determine for himself to which is 


the preponderance. 

Perhaps the most renowned of all these doubtful ques- 
tions is the existence of the " Sea-serpent." 

For ages, an animal of immense size and serpentine 
form has been believed to inhabit the ocean, though to be 
but rarely seen. A strong conviction of its existence has 
always prevailed among the inhabitants of Norway ; and 
the fjords or deep inlets which indent the coast-line of 
that mountainous country are the situations in which it 
is reported to have been most frequently seen. The coasts 
of New England, in the United States, are also said to 
have been favoured with frequent visits from the august 
stranger during the present century ; and, even recently, 
reports by many witnesses of unimpeachable character 
have been published of its appearance in the midst of the 
ocean, far from land, in various latitudes. 

Bishop Pontoppidan, who, about the middle of the last 


century, wrote a natural history of Norway, his native 


country, collected together a considerable mass of testi- 
mony to the occasional aj)pearance of an immense serpen- 
tiform marine animal off the shores of northern Europe 
before that period. Among other evidence, he adducea 
that of Captain de Perry, of the Norwegian navy, who saw 



the animal, when in a boat rowed by eight men, near 
Molde, iri August l7-i7. The declaration was confirmed 
by oath taken before a magistrate, by two of the crew. 
The, animal was described as of tlie general form of a 

serpent, stretched on the surface in receding coils or 
undulations, with the head, which resembled that of a 

^ J 

_ + 

horse, elevated some two feet out of the water. 
„ The public papers of Norway, during the summer of 


1846, were occupied with statements to the following 
effect :— r 

Many highly respectable persons, and of unimpeached 
veraciiy, in the vicinity of Christiansand and Molde, [the 
reader will observe that it is the same locality as that 
mentioned by Captain de Ferry, a hundred years before,] 
report that they have lately seen the marine serpent. It 
has been^ for the most part, observed in the larger fjords, 
rarely in the open sea. In the fjord of Christiansand it 


is believed to have been seen every year, but only in the 
hottest part of the summer, and when the sea has been 
perfectly unruffled. 

Affidavits of numerous persons are then given in de- 
tail, which, with some discrepancies in minute particulars, 
agree in testifying that an animal of great length (from 
about fifty to about a hundred feet) had been seen 
them at various times — in many cases more than once. 
The, head, which was occasionally elevated, was compared 
for size to a ten-gallon cask, rather pointed, as described 


by one witness ; by another, as rounded. All agreed that 
the eyes were large and glaring ; that the body was dark 


brown, and comparatively slender; and that a diJBTusive 
mane of long spreading hair waved behind the head. The 
movements were in vertical undulations, according to pre- 
ponderating testimony ; but some attributed to the animal 
lateral undulations also. The deponents were of various 
positions in society, — a workman, a fisherman, a merchant, 
a candidatus theologice, a sheriff, a surgeon, a rector, a 
curate, &c. 

Later in the season, the Rev. P. W. Deinboll, arch- 
deacon of Molde, published the following statement: 
"On the 28th of July 1S4<5, J. C. Lund, bookseller and 
printer ; G. S. Krogh, merchant ; Christian Flang, Lund's 
apprentice ; and John Elgenses, labourer ; were out on 
Romsdal-fjord, fishing. The sea was, after a warm sun- 
shiny day, quite calm. About seven o'clock in the after- 
noon, a little distance from shore, near the ballast place 
and Molde Hooe, they saw a large marine animal, which 
slowly moved itself forward, as it appeared to them, 
with the help of two fins, on the fore part of the body 
nearest the head, which they judged from tlie boiling of 
the water on both sides of it. The visible part of the 
body appeared to be between forty and fifty feet in length, 


and moved in undulations like a snake. The body was 
round and of a dark colour, and seemed to be several ell 
(an ell=two feet) in thickness. As they discerned a 
waving motion in the water behind the animal, they con- 
cluded that part of the body was concealed under water. 
That it was one connected animal, they saw plainly from 
its movement. When the animal was about one hundred 

^ * L 



yards from the boat, tlicy noticed tolerably correctly its 
fore-part, whicb ended in a sharp snout ; its colossal liead 
raised itself above the water in the form of a semicircle ; 


the lower part was not visible. The colour of the head 


was dark brown, and the skin smooth. They did not 
notice the eyes, or any mane or bristles on the throat. 
When the serpent came about a musket-shot near, Lund 
fired at it, and was certain the shots hit it in the head. 
After the shot he dived, but came up immediately. He 
raised his head like a snake preparing to dart on its prey. 
After he had turned and got his body in a straight line, 
which he appeared to do with great difficulty, he darted 
like an arrow against the boat. They reached the shore, 
and the animal, perceiving it had come in shallow water, 
dived immediately, and disappeared in the deep. 

.*' Such is the declaration of these four men, and no one 
has any cause to doubt their veracity, or imagine that 
they were so seized with fear, that they could not observe 
what took place so near them. There are not many here, 
or on other parts of the Norwegian coast, who longer 
doubt the existence of the sea-serpent. The writer of 
this narrative was a long time sceptical, as he had not 
been so fortunate as to see this monster of the deep ; but 
after the many accounts he has read, and the relations he 
has received from creditable, he does not dare 
longer to doubt the existence of the sea-serpent." 

That I may bring to a point the Norwegian testimony 
on the subject, I add here a statement made by an English 
gentleman, and published under tlie signature of " Oxoni- 


ensis " in The Times foi November ^, 1848, on the occa- 

■ J 


sion of the celebrated account of Captain M'Quhae, pre- 

F "^ 

sently to be given. 

*' There does not appear," says this writer, " to be a 


sinde well-authenticated instance of these monsters having 
been seen in any southern latitudes ; but in the north of 
Europe, notwithstanding the fabulous character so long 
ascribed to Pontoppidan's description, I am convinced that 
they both exist and are frequently seen. During three 
summers in Norway, I have repeatedly conversed with the 
natives on this subject. A parish priest, residing on Eoms- 
dal-fjord, about two days' journey south of Drontheim 
an intelligent person, whose veracity I have no reason to 
doubt — gave me a circumstantial account of one which 
he had himself seen. It rose within thirty yards of the 

■ p 

boat in which he was, and swam parallel with it for a 
considerable time. Its head he described as equalling a 
small cask in size, and its mouth, which it repeatedly 
opened and shut, was furnished with formidable teeth ; 
its neck was smaller, but its body — of which he supposed 
that he saw about half on the surface of the water — was 
not less in girth than that of a moderate-sized horse. 
Another gentleman, in whose house I stayed, had also 
seen one, and gave a similar account of it ; it also came 
near his boat upon the fjord, when it was fired at, upon 
which it turned and pursued them to the shore, which 
was luckily near, when it disappeared. They expressed 
great surprise at the general disbelief attaching to the 
existence of these animals amongst naturalists, and assured 


me that there was scarcely a sailor accustomed to those 

V - F 

inland lakes who had not seen them at one time or 

^ , The Rev. Alfred Charles Smith, M.A., an excellent 
naturalist, who passed the three summer months of 1850 
in Norway, and who published his observations in a series 
of papers in the Zoologist for that and the following 


year, thus alludes to his own inquiries, which, if they add 
nothing fo the amount of fact accumulated, add weight 
to the testimonies already adduced. " I lost no oppor- 
tunity," he remarks, " of making inquiries of all I could 


see, as to the general belief in the country regarding the 
animal in question ; but all, with one single exception 
naval officers, sailors, boatmen, and fishermen — concurred 
in affirming most positively that such an animal did exist, 
and had been repeatedly seen off their coasts and fjords ; 
though I was never fortunate enough to meet a man who 
could boast of having seen him with his own eyes. All, 
however, agreed in unhesitating belief as to his existence 
and frequent appearance ; and all seemed to marvel very 
much at the scepticism of the English, for refusing ere- 

r -■ ^ 

dence to what to the minds of the Norwegians seemed so 
incontrovertible. The single exception to which I have 
alluded, was a Norwegian officer, who ridiculed what he 
called the credulity or gullibility of his countrymen ; 
though I am bound to add my belief, that he did this, not 
from any decided opinion of his own, but to make a 
show of superior shrewdness in the eyes of an Englishman, 
who, he at once concluded, must undoubtedly disbelieve the 




existence of the marine monster. That Englishman, how- 
ever, certainly partakes of the credulity of the Northmen, 
and cannot withhold his belief in the existence of some 
hnjxe inhabitant of those northern seas, when, to his mind, 

the fact of his existence has been so clearly proved by 
numerous eye-witnesses, many of whom were too intelli- 
gent to be deceived, and too honest to be doubted.'' * 

In ] 8] 7, the Linnsean Society of New England pub- 
lished a " Report relative to a large marine animal, sup- 
posed to be a serpent, seen near Cape Ann, Massachusetts, 
in August" of that year. A good deal of care was taken to 
obtain evidence, and the depositions of eleven witnesses of 
fair and unblemished characters were taken on the matter, 
and certified on oath before magistrates, one of whom 
himself saw the creature, and corroborated the statements 
of the deponents on the most important points. The 
serjDcnt form was attested by all, and the colour, a dark 
brown, mottled, according to some, with white on the 
under parts of the head and neck. The length was vari- 
ously estimated, from fifty to a hundred feet. JSfo ap- 
pearance of mane was seen hy any. The head was com- 
pared to that of a sea-turtle, a rattlesnake, and a serpent 
generally ; and, for size, to that of a horse. As to the 
form of the body, five deponents speak of dorsal protuber- 
ances ; four declare that the body was straight, while two 
do not moot the point. The mode of progression is gene- 
rally spoken of as by vertical undulation, "like that of a 
caterpillar," — probably a looping or geometric caterpillar 

* Zoologist, p. 3228. 



is meant. 

The magistrate who saw the animal, and to 

whom the body appeared straight, considers that the ap- 
pearance of protuberances was due to the vertical bendings 
of the body during energetic motion. 
v; That there were other witnesses of the same appearance 
of the stranger in 1817, was generally stated at the time ; 
and one of these, whose testimony is of value, was brought 
out by the report of Captain M'Quhge, and the correspond- 
ence that ensued upon it. In the Boston (U.S.) Daily 
Advei'tiser for November 25, 1848, appeared a long 
communication from the Hon. T. H. Perkins of that city, 
attesting his own personal observation of the marine 
serpent at Gloucester Harbour, near Cape Ann, in 1817. 
The communication mainly consisted of a copy of a letter 
which Colonel Perkins had written to a friend in 1820. 
^"*''". . . . Wishing to satisfy myself on a subject on which 
there existed a great difference of o^^inion, I myself visited 
Gloucester \yith Mr Lee. On our way down we met 
several persons returning, who had visited the place where 
he was said to have exhibited himself, and who reported 
to us that he had not been seen for two or three days 


We, however, continued our route to Gloucester, 

though with fears that we should not be gratified with the 
sight of the monster which we sought. I satisfied myself, 
from conversation with several persons who had seen him, 
that the report in circulation was not a fable. All the 
town were, as you may suppose, on the alert ; and almost 
every individual, both great and sniall, had been gratified, 
at a greater or less distance, with a sight of him. Tho 


weather was fine, the sea perfectly smooth, and Mr Lee 
and myself were seated on a point of land which projects 
into the harbour, and about twenty feet above the level 
of the water, from which we were distant about fifty or 
sixty feet. .... 

"In a few moments after my exclamation, I saw on 
the opposite side of the harbour, at about two miles' dis- 
tance from where I had first seen, or thought I saw, the 
snake, the same object, moving with a rapid motion up the 
harbour, on the western shore. As he approached us, it 
was easy to see that his motion was not that of the com- 
mon snake, either on the land or in the water, but evidently 
the vertical movement of the caterpillar. As nearly as T 
could judge, there was visible at a time about forty feet 
of his body. It was not, to be sure, a continuity of body, 
as the form from head to tail (except as the apparent 
bunches appeared as he moved through the water) was 
seen only at three or four feet asunder. It was very evi- 
dent, however, that his length must be much greater than 

what appeared, as, in his movement, he left a considerable 
wake in his rear. I had a fine glass, and was within from 
one-third to half a mile of him. The head was flat in the 
water, and the animal was, as far as I could distinguish, 
of a chocolate colour. I was struck with an appearance 
in. the front part of the head like a single horn, about 
nine inches to a foot in length, and of the form of a mar- 
linespike. There were a great many people collected by 
this time, many of whom had before seen the same object, 
and the same appearance. From the time I first saw liim 


K _ 

J- i 

until he passed by the place where I stood, and soon after 
disappeared, was not more than fifteen or twenty minutes. 
''r/**'l left the place fully satisfied that the reports in cir- 
culation, although differing in details, were essentially 
correct. I returned to Boston, and having made my 
report, I found Mrs Perkins and my daughters disposed 
to make a visit to Gloucester with me when the return of 


the animal should be again announced. A few days after 
my return I went again to Cape Ann with the ladies ; we 
had a pleasant ride, but returned ungratified in the object 
which carried us there. 

ri "Whilst at Cape Ann I talked with many persons who 
had seen the serpent, and among others with a person 
of the name of Mansfield, one of the most respectable 
inhabitants of the town. His account to me was, that 
a few days before, as he was taking a ride with his wife in 
a chair, the road taking them close to a bank which over- 
looks the harbour, (and is nearly a perpendicular preci- 
piece,) he saw an uncommon appearance, which induced 
him to descend from the carriage, when he saw the sea- 
serpent, in which until then he had been an unbeliever. 
The animal was stretched out, partly over the white sandy 
beach, which had four or five feet of water upon it, and 
lay partly over the channel. He desired his wife to get 
<! at of the chair, which she did. He said he had made up 
his mind as to the length of the snake, but wished the 
opinion of his wife on. the same subject. He asked her 
what she should consider his length ; she answered that 
she could not undertake to say how many feet in length 

t - 




he was, but that she thought him as long as the wharf 
behind their house, an object with which she had always 
been familiar. Mr Mansfield said he was of the same 
opinion. The wharf is one hundred feet in length. It is 
to be observed that the person above spoken of had been 
such an unbeliever in the existence of this monster, that 
he had not given himself the trouble to go from his house 
to the harbour when the report was first made of such an 
animal being there. Subsequent to the period of which 
I have been speaking, the snake was seen by several of 
the crews of our coasting vessels, and in some instances 
within a few yards. Captain Tappan, a person well known 
to me, saw him with his head above water two or three 
feet, at times moving with great rapidity, and at others 
slowly. He also saw what explained the appearance which 
I have described, of a horn on the front of the head. This 
was doubtless what was observed by Captain Tappan to 
be the tongue, thrown in an upright position from the 
mouth, and having the appearance which I have given 

to it. 

" One of the revenue cutters, whilst in the neighbour- 

hood of Cape Ann, had an excellent view of him at a few 
yards' distance ; he moved slowly, and upon the approach 
of the vessel, sank and was seen no more. 


Though the position and character of some of these 
witnesses add weight to their testimony, and seem to 
preclude the possibility of their being either deceived or 
deceivers, on a matter which depended on the use of their 
eyes, yet, owing to a liabit prevalent in the United States, 



"of supposing that there is somewhat of wit in grosa 
exaggerations, or hoaxing inventions, we do naturally look 
with a lurking suspicion on American statements, when 
they describe unusual or disputed phenomena. It may 
therefore be interesting to give the evidence of five British 
officers, to the serpent's appearance on the American 
coast, some fifteen years after the occurrence last men- 




On the 15th of May 1833, 

a party, consisting of 

Captain Sullivan, Lieutenants Maclachlan and Malcolm 
of the Kifle Brigade, Lieutenant Lyster of the Artillery, 
and Mr Ince of the Ordinance, started from Halifax in a 
small yacht for Mahone Bay, some forty miles eastward, 

The morninoj was cloudy, and 

on a fishing excursion. 

the wind at S.S.E., and apparently rising : by the time we 
reached Chebucto Head, as we had taken no pilot with 
us, we deliberated whether we should proceed or turn 
back ; but after a consultation, we determined on the 
former, having lots of ports on our lee. Previous to our 
leaving town, an old man-of-war's-man we had along with 
us busied himself in inquiries as to our right course ; ho 
was told to take his departure from the Bull Rock olF 
Pennant Point, and that a W.N.W. course would brin 
us direct on Iron Bound Island, at the entrance of Mahone 



or Mecklenburgli Bay ; he, however, unfortunately 
US to steer W.S.W., nor corrected his error for five or six 
hours ; consequently we had gone a long distance off the 
coast. , We had run about half the distance, as we sup- 
posed, and were enjoying ourselves on deck, smoking our 




cigars, and getting our tackle ready for the approaching 
campaign against the salmon, when we were surprised by 
the sight of an immense shoal of grampuses, which 
appeared in an unusual state of excitement, and which in 
their gambols approached so close to our little craft, that 
some of the party amused themselves by firing at them 
with rifles ; at this time we were jogging on at about five 
miles an hour, and must have been crossing Margaret's 
Bay. I merely conjecture where we were, as we had not 
seen land since a short time after leaving Pennant Bay. 
Our attention was presently diverted from the whales and 
* such small deer,' by an exclamation from Dowling, our 
man-of-war's-man, who was sitting to leeward, of, ' 

sirs, look here ! ' We were started into a ready compliance, 
and saw an object which banished all other thoughts, save 
wonder and surprise. 

" At the distance of from a hundred and fifty to two 
hundred yards on our starboard bow, we saw the head 
and neck of some denizen of the deep, precisely like those 
of a common snake, in the act of swimming, the head so 
far elevated and thrown forward by the curve of the neck, 
as to enable us to see the water under and beyond it. 

- » 

The creature rapidly passed, leaving a regular wake, from 
the commencement of which, to the fore part, which was 
out of water, we judged its length to be about eighty feet ; 
and this within, rather than beyond the mark. We were, 
of course, all taken aback at the sidit, and, with starins: 

eyes and in speechless wonder, stood gazino- at it for full 

half a minute. There could be no mistake, no delusion 








and .we were all perfectly satisfied that we had been 
favoured with a view of the * true and veritable sea- 
serpent/ which had been generally considered to have 

existed only in the brain of some Yankee skipper, and 

;u }.■■ 

treated as a tale not mucli entitled to belief. Dowlino-'s 
exclamation is worthy of record, — * Well, I 've sailed in all 
parts of the world, and have seen rum sights too in my 

* * r ■ 

time, but this is the queerest thing I ever see ! ' and surely 
Jack Dowlinfy was right. It is most difficult to <:ive 

+ r 

correctly the dimensions of any object in the water. The 
head of the creature we set down at about six feet in 


length, and that portion of the neck which we saw, at the 

same ; the extreme length, as before stated, at between 
eighty and one hundred feet. The neck in thickness 
ec^ualled the bole of a moderate sized tree. The head and 
neck of a dark brown or nearly black colour, streaked 
with white in irreo^ular streaks. I do not recollect seeinoj 
any part of the body. 

."Such is the rough account of the sea-serpent, and all 
the party who saw it are still in the land of the living, 
Lyster in England, Malcolm in New South Wales, with 
his regiment; and the remainder still vegetating in Hali- 

fax. , 

L ' 

;,' W. Sullivan, Captain, Eifle Brigade, June 21, 1831. 
,A. Maclachlan, Lieutenant, ditto, August 5, 1824 

' G. P. Malcolm, Ensfgn, ditto, August 13, 1830. 

B. O'Neal Lyster, Lieut., Artillery, June 7, 1816. 

• i 1 


Heney Ince, Ordnance Store-keeper at Halifax. 

* This account was published in the Zoolorjist for 1847, (page 1715:) 





I now come to an incident, which, from the character of 
the witnesses, the captain, officers, and crew of one of Her 
Majesty's ships, and from the medium through which it 
was announced, an official report to the Lords of the Admi- 
ralty, — ^commanded great notoriety and interest, and gave 
an unwonted impetus to the investigation of the question. 

The Ti?n^5 newspaper of October 9, 1848, published the 
following paragraph : — " When the Dcedalus frigate, 
Captain M'Quhae, which arrived at Plymouth on the 4th 
instant, was on her passage home from the East Indies, 
between the Cape of Good Hope and St Helena, her 
captain, and most of her officers and crew, at four o'clock 
one afternoon, saw a sea-serpent. The creature was 
twenty minutes in sight of the frigate, and passed under 
her quarter. Its head appeared to be about four feet 
out of the water, and there was about sixty feet of its 
body in a straight line on the surface. It is calculated 
that there must have been under water a length of thirty- 
three or forty feet more, by which it propelled itself at 
the rate of fifteen miles an hour. The diameter of the 
exposed part of the body was about sixteen inches, and 
when it extended its jaws, which were full of large jagged 
teeth, they seemed sufficiently capacious to admit of a tall 
man standing upright between them." 


received it from his brother, Commander J. M, R. Ince, R.N. It was 


written by their uncle, one of the eye-witnesses, Mr Henry Ince, the 
Ordnance Store-keeper at Halifax, in Nova Scotia. The dates affixed 
to the names, are those on which the gentlemen received their respec- 
tive commissions. The editor is not aware of their present rank. 






Some of the details here given were not afterwards 


L * 

substantiated ; but popular curiosity was excited. 


Admiralty instantly inquired into the truth of the state- 
ment, and in 2'he Times of tlie 13th was published the 
gallant captain's official reply in the following terms : 


" ■ • " " Her Majesty's Sh rp Daedalus, 

Hamoaze, Oct. 11. 

sf^^"SlK, — In reply to your letter of this date, requiring 
information as to the truth of a statement published in 
^The Times newspaper, of a sea-serpent of extraordinary 
dimensions having been seen from Her Majesty's ship 


Doedalus, under my command, on her passage from the 

East Indies, I have the honour to acquaint you, for the 
information of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, 
that at five o'clock p.m., on the 6th of August last, in 
latitude 24° 44^' S., and longitude 9° 22' E., the weather 
dark and cloudy, wind fresh from the N.W., with a long 
ocean swell from the S.W., the ship on the port tack 
heading N.E. by N., something very unusual was seen by 


JVEr Sartoris, midshipman, rapidly approaching the ship 
from before the beam. The circumstance was immediately 
reported by him to the officer of the watch, Lieutenant 


Edgar Drummond, with whom and JMr William Barrett, 
the master, I was at the time walking the quarter-dcclc 
The sliip's company were at supper. 

On our 

being called to the object, it was 

discovered to be an enormous serpent, with head and 

shoulders kept about four feet 

tly above the 



face of the sea, and, as nearly as we could approximate by 
comparing it witli the length of what our maintopsail-yaxd 
would shew in the water, there was at the very least sixty 
feet of the animal afleur d^eau* no portion of which was, 
to our perception, used in propelling it through the water, 
either by vertical or horizontal undulation. It passed 
rapidly, but so close under our lee quarter, that had it 
been a man of my acquaintance, I should easily have 
recognised his features with the naked eye ; and it did 
not, either in approaching the ship or after it had passed 
our wake, deviate in the slightest degree from its course 

to the S.W., which it held on at the pace of from twelve 

to fifteen miles per hour, apparently on some determined 


"The diameter of the serpent was about fifteen or 

sixteen inches behind the head, which was, without any 

doubt, that of a snake ; and it was never, during the 

twenty minutes that it continued in sight of our glasses, 

once below the surface of the water ; its colour a dark 

brown, with yellowish white about the throat. It had no 

fins, but something like the mane of a horse, or rather a 

bunch of sea-weed, washed about its back. It was seen 

by the quarter-master, the boatswain's mate, and the man 

at the wheel, in addition to myself and officers above- 


" I am liaving a drawing of the serpent made from a 
sketch taken immediately after it was seen, which I hope 

* u 

^face of the water J' What need there was to express this 

by a French phrase in an English report, is not obvious. 



f r 

to have ready for transmission to my Lords Commissioners 
of the Admiralty by to-morrow's post. 

L J J 

Peter M'Qvbje, Capt 


'. ' jf 


^ A 


Lieutenant Drummond, the officer of the watch named 

r — - 

the above report, published his own impressions of the 

al. in the form of 



an extract from his own journal, 
In the four to six watch, at about five 
o'clock, we observed a most remarkable fish on our lee- 
quarter, crossing the stern in a S.W. direction ; the 
appearance of its head, which, with the back fin, was the 
only portion of the animal visible, was long, pointed, and 
flattened at the top, perhaps ten feet in length, the upper 
jaw projecting considerably ; the fin was perhaps twenty 
feet in til e rear of the head, and visible occasionally; the 
captain also asserted that he saw the tail, or another fin 
about the same distance behind it ; the upper part of the 
head and shoulders appeared of a dark brown colour, and 
beneath the under jaw a brownish white. It pursued a 
steady undeviating course, keeping its head horizontal 
with the surface of the water, and in rather a raised posi- 

disappearing occasionally beneath 

for a very 

brief interval, and not apparently for purposes of respira- 
tion. It was going at the rate of perhaps from twelve to 
fourteen miles an hour, and when nearest, was perhaps 
one hundred yards distant. In fact it gave one quite the 
idea of a large snake or eel. No one in the ship has ever 
seen anything similar, so it is at least extraordinary. It 


was visible to the naked eye for five minutes, and witli a 
glass for perhaps fifteen more. The weather was dark 
and squally at the time, with sea running."* 

The pictorial sketch alluded to in Captain M'Quhae's 
report, as well as one representing the animal in another 
aspect, was published in the Illustrated London News, 
of October 28, 1848, "under the supervision of Captain 
M'Quhas, and with his approval of the authenticity of 
the details as to position and form." These drawings 
will be criticised presently. 

As I have already said, a good deal of pojDular curiosity 
and interest was immediately awakened \ and the public 
papers were for a while filled with strictures, objections, 
suggestions, and confirmations. Among the last, Captain 
Beech ey, the eminent navigator, mentioned an extraor- 
dinary appearance which had occurred to him during the 
voyage of the Blossom, in the South Atlantic. " I took 
it for the trunk of a large tree, and before I could get 
my glass it had disappeared. 

Mr J. D. Morries Stirling, a gentleman long resident 
in Norway, communicated to the Secretary to the 
Admiralty important confirmatory evidence of the ex- 
istence of the animal on the coasts of that country, 
collected by a scientific body at Bergen, of which he was 
one of the directors. In the course of this communica- 
tion, the writer points out certain points of resemblance 
borne by the Norwegian animal to the great fossil reptiles 
known to cceolof^ists as the Enaliosauri : — " In several of 

Zoologist, p. 2.30G. 


MR Stirling's evidence. 319 

the fossil reptiles somewhat approaching the sea-serpent 
in size and other characteristics, the orbit is very large ; 
and, in this respect, as well as in having short paws or 
flappers, the descriptions of the Northern sea-serpents 

>r ■- 

agree with the supposed appearance of some of the 


antediluvian species/' This important identification had 
been suggested (probably, however, without Mr Stirling's 
knowledge) nearly two years before, by Mr E. No.wman, 
r.L.S., the able editor of the Zoologist* 

The most valuable portion of Mr Stirling's communica- 
tion is its closing paragraph:— "In concluding this hurried 
statement, allow me to add my own testimony as to the 
existence of a large fish or reptile of cylindrical form, 
will not say sea-serpent.) Three years ago, while becalmed 
in a yacht between Bergen and Sogn in Norway, I saw 
(at about a quarter of a mile astern) what appeared to be 
a large fish rufiling the otherwise smooth surface of the 
fjord, and, on looking attentively, I observed what looked 
like the convolutions of a snake. I immediately got my 
glass, and distinctly made out three convolutions, which 
drew themselves slowly through the water ; the greatest 
diameter was about ten or twelve inches. No head was 
visible, and from the size of each convolution I supposed 
the length to be about thirty feet. The master of my 
yacht, (who, as navigator, seaman, and fisherman, had 


known the Norwegian coast and North Sea for many 

* To the philosophic candour* with ^hich the Zoologist has been 

r ^^^ 

opened to reports and discussions on such mooted questions as these, 
natural history is much indebted. Not a little of the evidence adduced 
in this chapter 1 have derived thence. 



" * 

year&,; as well as a friend who was with me, an experienced 
Norvf"3gian sportsman and porpoise shooter, saw the same 
appearance at the same time, and formed the same opinion 
as to form and size. I mention my friend being a porpoise 
shooter, as many have believed that a shoal of porpoises 
following each other has given rise to the fable, as they 
called it, of the sea-serpent. 

A writer in The Times of November 2, 1848, under 
the signature of " F. G. S./' also suggested affinity with 
the Enaliosauri, and particularly adduced the fossil genus 
Plesiosaurus as presenting the closest resemblance. 


** One of the greatest difficulties," observes this writer, 
" on the face of the narrative [of Captain M'Quhae], and 
which . must be allowed to destroy the analogy of the 
motions of the so-called ^ sea-serpent ' with those of all 

M ■ 

known snakes and anguilliform fishes, is that no less 
than sixty feet of the animal were seen advancing h jieur 
d'eau at the rate of from twelve to fifteen miles an hour, 
without it being possible to perceive, upon the closest 

^^ I 

and most attentive inspection, any undulatory motion to 
which its rapid advance could be ascribed. It need 
scarcely be observed that neither an eel nor a snake, if 
either of those animals could swim at all with the neck 
elevated, could do so without the front part of its body 
being thrown into undulation by the propulsive efi"orts of 
its tail." 

He then inquires to what class of animals it could have 
belonged, and thus proceeds : — 

^Illustrated London News. Oct. 28. 1848. 



" From the known anatomical character of the Plesio- 
sauri, derived from the examination of their organic re- 

b - 

mains, geologists are agreed in the inference that those 

r S : ■ : \ 

animals carried their necks (which must have resembled 
the bodies of serpents) above the water, while their pro- 
'gression was effected by large paddles working beneath 
the short but stout tail acting the part of a rudder. It 
would be superfluous to point out how closely the sur- 
mises of philosophers resemble, in these particulars, the 
description of the eye-witnesses of the living animal, as 
given in the letter and drawings of Captain M'Quhse. In 
the latter we have many of the external characters of the 


former, as predicated from the examination of the skele- 
ton. The short head, the serpent-like neck, carried seve- 


ral feet above the water, forcibly recall the idea conceived 


of the extinct animal ; and even the bristly mane in cer- 
tain parts of the back, so unlike anything found in 
serpents, has its analogy in the Iguana, to which animal 
the Plesiosaurus has been compared by some geolo- 
gists. But I would most of all insist upon the pecu- 
liarity of the animal's progression, which could only 
have been efi'ected with the evenness, and at the rate 
described, by an apparatus of fins or paddles, not pos- 
sessed by serpents, but existing in the highest perfection 


in the Plesiosaurus." 

A master in science how appeared upon the field, 
Professor Richard Owen, who, in a most able article, gave 
his verdict against the serpentine character of the animal 
seen, and pronounced it to have been, in his judgment, a 



seal. This opinion is too important to bear abridgment^ 
and must be siven in extensG : — 


The sketch [a reduced copy of the animal seen by 

Captain M'Quhse, attached to the submerged body of a 
large seal, shewing the long eddy produced by the action 
of the terminal flippers] will suggest the reply to your 
query, ' Whether the monster seen from the Dcedalus be 
anything but a saurian ? ' If it be the true answer, it de- 
stroys the romance of the incident, and will be anything 
but acceptable to those who prefer the excitement of the 
imagination to the satisfaction of the judgment. I am 
far from insensible to the pleasures of the discovery of a 
new and rare animal ; but before I can enjoy them, certain 
conditions — e.g., reasonable proof or evidence of its exist- 
ence — must be fulfilled. I am also far from undervaluinof 


the information which Captain M'Quhse has given us of 
what he saw. When fairly analysed, it lies in a small 
compass ; but my knowledge of the animal kingdom 
compels me to draw other conclusions from the pheno- 
mena than those which the gallant captain seems to have 
juraj)ed at. He evidently saw a large animal moving 
rapidly through the water, very different from anything 

he had before witnessed — neither a whale, a grampus, a 

great shark, an alligator, nor any of the larger surface- 
swimming creatures which are fallen in with in ordinary 
voyages. He writes : — ' On our attention being called to 
the object, it was discovered to be an enormous serpent/ 
(read 'animal,') 'with the head and shoulders kept about 
four feet constantly above the surface of the sea. "The 
diameter of the serpent' (animal) 'was about fifteen or 



Sixteen inclies behind the head ; its colour a dark brown, 
with yellowish white about the throat. No fins were 
seen, (the captain says there were none; but from his 
own account, he did not see enough of the animal to 
prove his negative.) * Something like the mane of a 
horse, or rather a bunch of sea- weed washed about its 
back/ So much of the body as was seen was *not used 
ill ■ propelling the animal through the water, either by 

or horizontal undulation.' A calculation of its 
length was made under a strong preconception of the 

nature of the beast. The head, e. g., is stated to be, ' with- 
out any doubt, that of a snake ; ' and yet a snake would 
be the last species to which a naturalist, conversant with 
the forms and characters of the heads of animals, would 
refer such a head as that of which Captain M'Quhge has 
transmitted a drawing to the Admiralty, and which he 
'certifies to have been accurately copied in the Illustrated 
London News for October 28, 1848, p. 265. Your Lord- 


ship will observe, that no sooner was the captain's atten- 
tion called to the object, than ' it was discovered to be an 
enormous serpent,' and yet the closest inspection of as 
much of the body as was visible, ct fleur deau, failed to 
detect any undulations of the body, although such actions 
constitute the very character which w^ould distinguish a 
serpent or serpentiform swimmer from any other marine 
species. The foregone conclusion, therefore, of the beast's 
being a sea-serpent, notwithstanding its capacious vaulted 
cranium, and stiff, inflexible trunk, must be kept in mind 
'^- in estimating the value of the approximation made to the 

total length of the animal, as ' (at the very least) sixty 

< . 



feet/ This is the only part of the description, however, 
which seems to me to be so uncertain as to be inadmis- 
sible, in an attempt to arrive at a right conclusion as to 
the nature of the animal. The more certain characters of 
the animal are these : — Head with a convex, moderately- 
capacious cranium, short obtuse muzzle, gape of the 
mouth not extending further than to beneath the eye, 
which is rather small, round, filling closely the palpebral 
aperture ; colour, dark brown above, yellowish white be- 
neath ; surface smooth, without scales, scutes, or other 
conspicuous modifications of hard and naked cuticle. 
And the captain says, ' Had it been a rnan of my ac- 
quaintance, I should have easily recognised his features 
with my naked eye.' Nostrils not mentioned, but indi- 
cated in the drawing by a crescentic mark at the end of 
the nose or muzzle. All these are the characters of the 
head of a warm-blooded mammal — none of them those 
of a cold-blooded reptile or fish. Body long, dark brown, 
not undulating, without dorsal or other apparent fins ; 
'but something like the mane of a horse, or rather a 
bunch of sea- weed, washed about its back.' The charac- 
ter of the integuments would be a most important one 
for the zoologist in the determination of the class to 
which the above-defined creature belonged. If an opinion 
can be deduced as to the inteofuments from the above in- 

dication, it is that the species had hair, which, if it was 
too short and close to be distinguished on the head, 
was visible where it usually is the longest, on the middle 
line of the shoulders or advanced part of the back, 




^"^ J 

where it was not stiff and U2:)right like the rays of a 
fin, but 'washed about.' Guided by the above interpre- 
tation, of the ' mane of a horse, or a bunch of sea-weed/ 
the animal was not a cetaceous mammal, but rather a 
great seal. But what seal of large size, or indeed of any 
size, would be encountered in latitude 24° 44' south, 
and longitude 9° 22' east — viz., about three hundred miles 


from the western shore of the southern end of Africa ? The 
most likely species to be there met with are the largest of 
the seal tribe, e.g, Anson's sea-lion, or that known to 
the southern whalers by the name of the " sea-elephant," 
the Phoca proboscidea, which attains the length of from 
twenty to thirty feet. These great seals abound in certain 
of the islands of the southern and antarctic seas, from 


which an individual is occasionally floated off upon an 
iceberg. The sea-lion exhibited in London last spring, 
which was a young individual of the Phoca proboscidea, 
was actually captured in that predicament; having been 
carried by the currents that set northward towards the 
Cape, where its temporary resting-place was rapidly 
melting away. When a large individual of the Phoca 
proboscidea or Phoca leonina is thus borne off to a dis- 
tance from its native shore, it is compelled to return for 
rest to its floating abode, after it has made its daily ex- 
cursions in quest of the fishes or squids that constitute its 
food. It is thus brought by the iceberg into the latitudes 
of the Cape, and perhaps further north, before the berg 
has melted away. Then the poor seal is compelled to 
swim as long as strength endures ; and in such a prcdica- 





ment I imairine the creature was that Mr Sartoris saw 
rapidly approaching the Dcedalus from before the beam, 
scanning, probably, its capabilities as a resting place, as it 
paddled its long stiff body past the ship. In so doing, it 
would raise a head of the form and colour described and 
delineated by Cajptain M'Quhse, supported on a neck also 
of the diameter given ; the thick neck passing into an 
inflexible trunk, the longer and coarser hair on the upper 
part of which would give rise to the idea, especially if the 
species were the Plioca leonina, explained by the similes 
above cited. The organs of locomotion would be out of 
sight. The pectoral fins being set on very low down, as 
in my sketch, the chief impelling force would be the 
action of the deeper immersed terminal fins and tail, 
which would create a long eddy, readily mistakeable, by 
one looking at the strange phenomenon with a sea-serpent 
in his mind's-eye, for an indefinite prolongation of 
the body. 

" It is very probable, that not one on board the Dce- 
dalus ever before beheld a gigantic seal freely swimming 
in the open ocean. Entering unexpectedly from that 
vast and commonly blank desert of waters, it would be a 
strange and exciting spectacle, and might well be inter- 
preted as a marvel ; but the creative powers of the human 
mind appear to be really very limited, and, on all the 
occasions where the true source of the 'great unknown' 
has been detected — whether it has proved to be a file of 
sportive porpoises, or a pair of gigantic sharks — old 
Ponto23]3idan's sea-ser2:)cnt with the mane has uniformly 



suggested itself as the representative of the portent, until 
the mystery has been unravelled. 

, , " The vertebrae of the sea-serpent described and deline- 
ated in the Wernerian Titans actions, vol. i, and sworn 
to by the fishermen who saw it off the Isle of Stronsa, (one 
of the Orkneys,) in 1808, two of which vertebrae are in 
the Museum of the College of Surgeons, are certainly 
those of a ojreat shark, of the o-enus Selache, and are not 

distinguishable from those of the species called * basking- 
shark,' of which individuals from thirty feet to thirty-five 
feet in length have been from time to time captured or 
stranded on our coasts. 

;,;! " I have no unmeet confidence in the exactitude of my 
interpretation of the phenomena witnessed by the captain 
and others of the Bcedaliis. I am too sensible of the 


inadequacy of the characters which the opportunity of a 
rapidly passing animal, 'in a long ocean swell,' enabled 
them to note, for the determination of its species or 
genus. Giving due credence to the most probably accu- 
rate elements of their description, they do little more than 
guide the zoologist tr the class, which, in the present in- 


stance, is not that of the serpent or the saurian. 
; *'But I am usually asked, after each endeavour to 


explain Captain M'Quhje's sea-serpent, ' Why should there 
not be a great sea-serpent ?' — often, too, in a tone which 
seems to imply, ' Do yo'u think, then, there are not more 
marvels in the deep than are dreamt of in your philoso- 
phy?' And, freely conceding that point, I have felt 
bound to give a reason for scepticism as well as faith. 


If a gigantic sea-serpent actually exists, the species must^ 
of course, have been perpetuated through successive ge- 
nerations, from its first creation and introduction into the 
seas of this planet. Conceive, then, the number of indi- 
viduals that must have lived, and died, and have left 
their remains to attest the actuality of the species during 
the enormous lapse of time, from its beginning, to the 
6th of August last ! Now, a serpent, being an air- 
breathing animal, with long vesicular and receptacular 
lungs, dives with an eflbrt, and commonly floats when 
dead ; and so would the sea-serpent, until decomposition 
or accident had opened the tough integument, and let out 
the imprisoned gases. Then it would sin|i, and, if in deep 
water, be seen no more until the sea rendered up its 
dead, after the lapse of the seons requisite for the yielding 
of its place to dry land — a change which has actually re- 
vealed to the present generation the old saurian monsters 
that were entombed at the bottom of the ocean, of the 
secondary geological periods of our earth's history. Dur- 
ing life the exigencies of the respiration of the great 
sea-serpent would always compel him frequently to the 
surface ; and when dead and swollen 

' Prone on the flood, extended long and large,' 

he would 

' Lie floating many a rood ; in bulk as huge, 
As whom the fables name of monstrous size, 
Titanian, or Earth-born, that warr'd on Jove/ 

Such a spectacle, demonstrative of the species if it existed, 
has not hitherto met the gaze of any of the countlesa 



voyagers who have traversed the seas in so many directions. 

currents of the ocean, it 


tides and 

still more reasonable to suppose that the dead 

serpent would be o 
I do not ask for the 

ally cast on sh 


The structure of the 

back-bone of the serpent tribe is so peculiar, that a single 
vertebra would suffice to determine the existence of the 
hypothetical Ophidian ; and this will not be deemed an 
unreasonable request when it is remembered that the ver- 
tebrse are more numerous in serpents than in any other 
animals. Such larixe blanched and scattered bones on 
any sea 

curiosity ; yet there is no vertebra of a serpent larger 
than the ordinary pythons and boas in any museum in 

shore, would be likely to attract even common 

^ ' 

■' "Few sea-coasts have been more sedulously searched, 
or by more acute naturalists (witness the labours of Sars 
and, Lovdn) than those of Norway. Krakens and sea- 
serpents ought to have been living and dying thereabouts 

from long before Pontoppidan's time to 

day, if 

tales were true ; yet they have never vouchsafed a single 
fragment of the skeleton to any Scandinavian collector ; 


whilst the great denizens of those seas have been 
means so chary. No museums, in fact, are so rich in 
skeletons, skulls, bones and teeth of the numerous kinds of 
whales, cachalots, grampuses, walruses, sea-unicorns, seals, 
&c., as those of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden ; but of 
any large marine nondescript or indeterminable monster 
they cannot shew a trace. 


" I have inquired repeatedly whether the natural history 
collections of Boston, Philadelphia, or other cities of the 
United States, might possess any unusually large ophidian 
vertebrae, or any of such peculiar form as to indicate some 
large and unknown marine animal; but they have re- 
ceived no such specimens. 

" The frequency with which the sea-serpent has been 
supposed to have appeared near the shores and harbours 
of the United States, has led to its being specified as the 
' American sea-serpent ; ' yet out of the two hundred 
vertebrae of every individual that should have lived and 
died in the Atlantic since the creation of the species, not 
one has yet been picked up on the shores of America^ 
The diminutive snake, less than a yard in length, ' killed 
upon the sea-shore, ' apparently beaten to death, ' by 
some labouring people of Cape Ann,' United States, (see 
the 8vo pamphlet, 1817, Boston, page 38,) and figured in 


the Illustrated London News, October 28, 1848, from the 
original American memoir, by no means satisfies the con- 
ditions of the problem. Neither does the Saccopharynx 
of Mitchell, nor the Ophiognathus of Harwood — the one 
four and a half feet, the other six feet long : both are 
surpassed by some of the congers of our own coasts, and, 
like other mursenoid fishes and the known small sea- 
snake, (Hydrophis,) swim by undulatory movements of 
the body 

" The fossil vertebrae and skull which were exhibited 
by Mr Koch, in New York and Boston, as those of the 
great sea-serpent, and which are now in Berlin, belonged 



to different individuals of a species which I had previously 
proved to be an extinct whale ; a determination which 
has subsequently been confirmed by Professors Miiller 
and Agassiz. Mr Dixon, of Worthing, has discovered 
many fossil vertebrae, in the Eocene tertiary clay at Brack- 
lesham, which belong to a large species of an extinct 
genus of serpent {Palceopliis), founded on similar verte- 
brae from the same formation in the Isle of Sheppey. 
The largest of these ancient British snakes was twenty 
feet in length ; but there is no evidence that they were 

, , "The sea saurians of the secondary periods of geology 
have been replaced in the tertiary and actual seas by 
marine mammals. No remains of Cetacea have been 
found in lias or oolite, and no remains of Plesiosaur, or 
Ichthyosaur, or any other secondary reptile, have been 
found in Eocene or later tertiary deposits, or recent, on 
the actual sea-shores ; and that the old air-breathing 
saurians floated when they died has been shewn in the 
Geological Transactions, (vol. v., second series, p. 512.) 
The inference that may reasonably be drawn from no 
recent carcase or fragment of such having ever been 
discovered, is strengthened by the corresponding absence 
of any trace of their remains in the tertiary beds. 

Now, on weighing the question, whether creatures 
meriting the name of'' great sea-serpent' do exist, or 
whether any of the gigantic marine, saurians of the 
secondary deposits may have continued to live up to the 
rrcsent time, it seems to me less provable that no part of 




the carcase of such reptiles should have ever been dis- 
covered in a recent or nnfossilised state, than that men 
should have been deceived by a cursory view of a partly 
submerged and rapidly moving animal, which might only 
be strange to themselves. In other words, I regard 
the negative evidence from the utter absence of any of 
the recent remains of great sea-serpents, krakens, or 
Enaliosaiiria, as stronger against their actual existence, 

than the positive statements which have hitherto weighed 
with the public mind in favour of their existence. A 
larger body of evidence from eye-witnesses might be got 
together in proof of ghosts than of the sea-serpent." * 

Such was the explanation of the deposed facts offered 
by the ablest of living physiologists. Coming as it did 
from such a quarter, and supported by so much intrinsic 
reason, it is not surprising, that, although the. romance 
was sadly shorn away, most persons were willing to 
acquiesce in the decision. « 

Captain M'Quhse, however, promptly replied to Professor 
Owen : — " I now assert, neither was it a common seal, 
nor a sea-elephant ; its great length, and its totally differ- 
ing physiognomy precluding the possibility of its being 
a Fhoca of any species. The head was flat, and not a 
* capacious vaulted cranium ; ' nor had it ' a stiff inflexible 
trunk ' — a conclusion to which Professor Owen has 
jumped, most certainly not justified by the simple state- 
ment, that no ' portion of the sixty feet seen by us was 

The Times, of November 11, 1848. 

quel's reply to OWEN. 333 

used in propelling it through the water, either by vertical 
or horizontal undulation/ 

*'ltis also assumed that the * calculation of its leno-th 

was made under a strong preconception of the nature of 


the beast ; another conclusion quite the contrary to the 

It was not until after the great length was developed 
by its nearest approach to the ship, and until after that 
most important point had been duly considered and 
debated, as well as such could be in the brief space of 
time allowed for so doing, that it was pronounced to be a 
serpent by all who saw it, and who are too well accustomed 
to judge of lengths and breadths of objects in the sea to 


mistake a real substance and an actual living body, coolly 
and dispassionately contemplated, at so short a distance 


too, for the 'eddy caused by the action of the deeper 
immersed fins and tail of a rapidly-moving gigantic seal 
raising its head above the water, ' as Professor Owen 


imagines, in quest of its lost iceberg. 

" The creative powers of the human mind may be very 
limited. On this occasion they were not called into 


requisition ; my purpose and desire being, throughout, to 
furnish eminent naturalists, such as the learned Professor, 
with accurate facts, and not with exaggerated representa- 
lions, nor with what could by any possibility proceed 
from optical illusion ; and I beg to assure him that old 
Pontoppidan's having clothed his sea-serpent with a mane 

« ■ 

could not have suggested the idea of ornamenting the 
creature seen from the Dcedalus with a similar appendage, 
for the simple reason that I had never seen his account, 


or even heard of his sea-serpent, until my arrival in 
London. Some other solution must therefore be found 
for the very remarkable coincidence between us in that 
particular, in order to unravel the mystery. 

" Finally, I deny the existence of excitement, or the 
possibility of oj^tical illusion. I adhere to the statements, 
as to form, colour, and dimensions, contained in my 
official report to the Admiralty ; and I leave them as 

* m 


data whereupon the learned and scientific may exercise 
the 'pleasures of imagination ' until some more fortunate 
opportunity shall occur of making a closer acquaintance 
with the ' great unknown ' — in the present instance 
assuredly no ghost." * 

A few months later, the following letter appeared in 



the Bombay Bi-monthly Times for January 1849. It is 


a very valuable testimony : 

" I see, in your paper of the 3 0th December, a para- 

V m - 

graph in which a doubt is expressed of the authenticity 
of the account given by Captain M'Quhge of the ' great 
sea-serpent.' When returning to India, in the year 1829, 
I was standing on the poop of the Royal Saxon, in con- 

■ ^ - 

versation with Captain Petrie, the commander of that 


ship. We were at a considerable distance south-west of 
the Cape of Good Hope, in the usual track of vessels to 
this country, going rapidly along (seven or eight knots) in 
fine smooth water. It was in the middle of the day, and 
tliC other passengers were at luncheon ; the man at the 
wheel, a steerage passenger, and ourselves, being the on])' 


* The Times, November 21, 1848. 




persons on the poop. Captain Petiie and myself, at the 
same instant, were literally fixed in astonishment by the 
appearance, a short distance ahead, of an animal of which 
no more generally correct description could be given than 
that by Captain M'Quhse. It passed -within thirty-five 
yards of the ship, without altering its course in the least ; 
but as it came right abreast of us, it slowly turned its head 


towards US. Apparently about one-third of the upper part 
of its body was above water, in nearly its whole length, 
and we could see the water curling up on its breast as it 
moved along, but by what means it moved we could not 
perceive. We watched it going astern with intense in- 
terest until it had nearly disappeared, when my com- 
panion, turning to me with a countenance expressive of 


the utmost astonishment, exclaimed, * Good heavens ! 
what can that be V It was strano-e that we never thousjht 
of calling the party engaged at luncheon to witness the 
extraordinary sight we had seen ; but the fact is, we were 
so absorbed in it ourselves, that we never spoke, and 



scarcely moved, until it had nearly disappeared. Captain 
Petrie, a superior and most intelligent man, has since 
perished in the exercise of his profession. Of the fate of 
the others then on deck I am ignorant ; so the story 
rests on my own unsupported word, but I pledge that 
word to its correctness. Professor Owen's supposition, 
that the animal seen by the officers of the Lcedalus was 
a fi^ifrantic seal, I believe to be incorrect, because we saw 

o o 

this apparently similar creature in its whole length, with 
the exception of a small portion of the tail, which was 




under water ; and, by comparing its length with that of 
the Royal Saxon, (about six hundred feet,) when exactly 
alongside in passing, we calculated it to be in that, as 
well as in its other dimensions, greater than the animal 
described by Captain M'Quhse. Should the foregoing 
account be of any interest to you, it is at your service ; it 
is an old story, but a true one. I am not quite sure of 
our latitude and longitude at the time, nor do I exactly 
remember the date, but it was about the end of July. 
R Davidson, Superintending Surgeon, Nagpore Sub- 
sidiary Force, Kamptee, Sd January, 1849." 

In the year 1852, the testimony of British ofiScers was 
again given to the existence of an enormous marine 
animal of serpent form. The descriptions, however, shew 
great discrepancy with that of the creature seen from the 
Daidalus, and cannot be considered confirmatory of the 
former account, otherwise than as proving that immense 
unrecognised creatures of elongate form roam the oceai 

Two distinct statements of the incident were published, 

which I cite from the Zoologist (p. 3756); but one of 


f i 

them had already appeared in The Times. 

Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Steele, of the Coldstream 


Guards, thus writes : 


" I have lately received the following account from my 
brother. Captain Steele, 9 th Lancers, who, on his way out 
to India in the Barham, saw the sea-serpent. Thinking 
it might be interesting to you, as corroborating the ac- 
count of the Dcedalus, 1 have taken the liberty of send- 
ing you the extract from my brother's letter :— * On Uie 

CAPTAIN Steele's testimony. 337 

28th of August, in long. 40° E., lat. 37" 16' S, about 
half-past two, we had all gone down below to get ready 
for dinner, when the first mate called us on deck to see 
aniost extraordinary sight. About five hundred yards 
from the ship there was the head and neck of an enor- 




mous snake ; we saw about sixteen or twenty feet out of 
the water, and he spouted a long way from his head; 

down his back he had a crest like a cock's comb, and was 

, . . . 

going very slowly through the water, but left a wake of 
about fifty or sixty feet, as if dragging a long body after 
hun. The captain put the ship off her course to run 
down to him, but as we approached him, he w^ent down. 
His colour was green, with light spots. He was seen by 
every one on hoard.' My brother is no naturalist, and I 


think this is the first time the monster has been ever seen 

^ - 

to spout. 

, The second statement is contained in a letter from one 

of the officers of the ship : 

. . "You will be surprised to hear that we have actually 

seen the great sea-serpent, about which there has been so 

much discussion. Information was given by a sailor to the 

captain just as we were going to dinner. I was in my 

cabin at the time, and from the noise and excitement, I 

thought the ship was on fire. I rushed on deck, and on 

looking over the side of the vessel I saw a most wonderful 

SK'ht, which I shall recollect as lono; as I live. His head 


appeared to be about sixteen feet above the water, and he 
kept moving it up and down, sometimes shewing his 
enormous neck, which was surmounted with a huge crest 




in the shape of a saw. It was surrounded by hundreds 
of birds, and we at first thought it was a dead whale. 
He left a track in the water like the wake of a boat, and 
from what we could see of his head and part of his body, 


we were led to think he must be about sixty feet in 
length, but he might be more. The captain kept the 
vessel away to get nearer to him, and when we were 
within a hundred yards he slowly sank into the depths of 
the sea. While we were at dinner he was seen again," 

Mr Alfred Newton, of Elveden Hall, an excellent and 
well-known naturalist, adds the guarantee of his personal 
acquaintance with one of the recipients of the above 

If it were not for the spouting — which is not men- 
tioned by one observer, and may possibly have been an 
illusion — I should be inclined to think that this may 
have been one of the scabbard-fishes, specimens of 
which inhabit the ocean of immense size. They carry a 
high serrated dorsal fin, and swim with* the head out of 


water. -f- 

On the 19th February 1849, Mr Herriman, commander 
of the British ship Brazilian, sailed from the Cape of 
Good Hope, and on the 24th was becalmed almost exactly 
in the spot where Captain M'Quhse had seen his monster. 

" About eight o'clock on that morning, whilst tJie 

- - # 



* I note this, because discredit has been undeservedly cast on the 


phenomena observed, by foolish fabulous stories having been published 
under fictitious names, for the purpose of hoaxing. 

f See Colonel Montagu's account, in Yarrell's British Fishes, vol. i., 
p. 199, (edit. 1841.) 


captain was surveying the calm, heavy, rippleless swell of 

• r 

the sea through his telescope, the ship at the same time 


heading N.N.W., he perceived something rieht abeam, 

about half a mile to the westward, stretched alons the 
water to the length of about twenty-five or thirty feet, and 
perceptibly moving from the ship with a steady, sinuous 


motion. The head, which seemed to be lifted several feet 
above the waters, had something resembling a mane, run- 


ning down to the floating portion, and within about six 
feet' of the tail it forl^ed out into a sort of double fin. 
Having read at Colombo the account of tlie monster said 
to have been seen by Captain M'Quhse in nearly the same 
latitude, Mr Herriman was led to suppose that he had 
fallen in with the same animal, or one of the genus ; he 


immediately called his chief officer, Mr Long, with 

ral of the passengers, w^ho, after surveying the object for 
some time, came to the unanimous conclusion that it 
must be the sea-serpent seen by Captain M'Quhae. As 
the Brazilian was making no headway, Mr Herriman, 
determining to bring all doubts to an issue, had a boat 


lowered down, and taking two hands on board, together 
with ]\Ir Boyd of Peterhead, near Aberdeen, one of the 

' * 

passengers, who acted as steersman under the direction of 
the captain, they approached the monster. Captain Herri- 
man standing on the bow of the boat armed with a har- 
poon, to commence the onslaught. The combat, however, 
was not attended with the danger which those on board 
apprehended, for on coming close to the object it was 
found to be nothing more than an immense piece of sea- 


weed, evidently detached from a coral reef, and drifting 
with the current, which sets constantly to the westward 
in this latitude, and which, together with the swell left 
by the subsidence of the gale, gave it the sinuous, snake- 
like motion. 

" But for the calm, which afforded Captain Herriman 
an opportunity of examining the weed, we should have 
had another ' eye-witness ' account of the great sea-serpent, 

Mr Herriman himself admitting that he should have 
remained under the impression that he had seen it. 
What appeared to be head, crest, and mane of the im- 
mensum volumen, was but the large root which floated 
upwards, and to which several pieces of the coral reef 
still adhered. The captain had it hauled on board, but, 
as it began to decay, was compelled to throw it over. He 
now regrets that he had not preserved it in a water-butt 
for the purpose of exhibition in the Thames, where the 
conflicting motion produced by the tide and steamers 
would in all probability give it a like appearance.* 

A new and unexpected interpretation was thus given to 
the observed phenomena ; an interpretation which Jias 
been recently revived. For a statement published in The 

Times of February 5, 1858, by Captain Harrington of the 

ship Castilian, brought out another witness on the sea- 
weed hypothesis. 


The statement alluded to was couched in the form of 
an extract from a Meteorological Journal kept on board 
the ship, the original of which was sent to the Board of 

* Sun, July 9, 1849. 




CAPTAIN Harrington's testimony. 341 

Tra3e. It was aiitlienticated by Captain Harrington, and 

is cliief and second officers. 

1 \-;y^ 

"} Ship GastiUan, Dec. 12, 1857; N.E. end of St Helena, 
distant ten miles. At 6'.30 p.m., strong breezes and 


cloudy, sliip sailing about twelve miles per hour. While 
myself and officers were standing on the lee side of the 
poop, looking towards the island, we were startled by the 
sTofht of a huoe marine animal, which reared its head out 

of the water within twenty yards of the ship, when it sud- 


denly disappeared for about half a minute, and then made 
its appearance in the same manner again, shewing us dis- 
tinctly its neck and head about ten or twelve feet out of 
the water. Its head was shaped like a long nun buoy, 

and I suppose the diameter to have been seven or eight 
feet in the largest part, with a kind of scroll, or tuft of 
loose 'skin, encircling it about two feet from the top ; the 
water was discoloured for several hundred feet from its 
bead, so much so, that, on its first appearance, my impres- 
sion was that the ship was in broken water, produced, as 
I supposed, by some volcanic agency since the last time I 

the island, but the second appearance completely 
ipelled those fears, and assured us that it was a monster 
of extraordinary length, which appeared to be moving 
slowly towards the land^ The ship was going too fast to 
enable us to reach the mast-head in time to form a correct 
estimate of its extreme length, but from what we saw 
from the deck, we conclude that it must have been over 
two hundred feet lonir. The boatswain and several of the 


crew who observed it from the top-gallant forecastle, state 
that it was more than double the length of the ship, in 
which case it must have been five hundred feet; be that 
as it may, I am convinced that it belonged to the serpent 
tribe ; it was of a dark colour about the head, and was 
covered with several white spots. Having a press of 
canvas on the ship at the time, I was unable to round to 
without risk, and therefore was precluded from getting 
another sight of this leviathan of the deep. 

" Geoege Heney Haeeington, Commander. 
William Davies, Chief Officer. 
Edwaed Wheelee, Second Officer." 

This document was immediately answered by Captain 


Fred. Smith, of the ship Pekin, in the following announce-, 
ment : 

'' On Dec. 28, 1 848, being then in lat. 2G° S., long. 6° R, 
nearly calm, saw about half a mile on port beam, a very 
extraordinary-looking thing in the water, of considerable 
length. With the telescope we could plainly discern a 
huge head and neck, covered with a long shaggy-looking 
kind of mane, which it kept lifthig at intervals out of the 
water. This was seen by all hands, and declared to be 
the great sea-serpent. I determined on knowing some- 
thing about it, and accordingly lowered a boat, in which 
my chief officer and four men went, taking with them a 
long small line in case it should be required. I watched 
them very anxiously, and the monster seemed not to regard 
their approach. At length they got close to the head. 

— f 



Tliey seemed to hesitate, and then busy tliemselves with 


the luie, the monster all the time ducking its head, and 
shewing its great length. Presently the boat began 
pulling towards the ship, the monster following slowly. 
In about half an hour they got alongside ; a tackle was 
got on the mainyard and it was hoisted on board. It 
appeared somewhat supple when hanging, but so com- 


pletely covered with snaky-looking barnacles, about 
eighteen inches long, that we had it some time on board 
before it was discovered to be a piece of gigantic sea- 
weed, twenty feet long, and four inches diameter; the 
root end appeared when in the water like the head of an 
animal, and the motion given by the sea caused it to 
seem alive. In a few days it dried up to a hollow tube, 
and as it had rather an offensive smell was thrown over- 
board. I had only been a short time in England when 
the Dwdalus arrived and reported having seen the great 
sea-serpent, — to the best of my recollection near the same 
locality, and which I have no doubt was a piece of the 
same weed. So like a huge living monster did this 
appear, that had circumstances prevented my sending a 
boat to it, I should certainly have believed I had seen the 

great sea-snake." 

The last imputation called up "An officer of H.M.S. 
Dcedalus," whose testimony puts ho7's de combat the sea- 
weed hypothesis in that renowned case. I need not give 
it at length, the following sentences sufficing: — "The 

object seen from H.M. ship was, beyond all question, a 
li\ino- animal, moving rapidly tlirough the water againot 




a cross sea, and within five points of a fresh breeze, with 
such velocity that the water was surging under its chest, 
as it passed along at a rate probably of ten miles per 
hour. Captain M'Quhae's first impulse was to tack in 
pursuit, . . . but he reflected that we could neither lay up 
for it nor overhaul it in speed. There was nothing to be 
done, therefore, but to observe it as accurately as we could 
with our glasses, as it came up under our lee quarter and 
passed away to windward, at its nearest position being 
not more than two hundred yards from us ; the eye, the 
mouth, the nostril, the colour cind form, all being most 
distinctly visible to us. . , . My impression was that it 
was rather of a lizard than a serpentine character, as its 
movement was steady and uniform, as if propelled by fins, 
not by any undulatory power. 

Further correspondence ensued, but no additional light 
of any importance was shed on the matter, except that 
Captain Smith stated that the diameter of his sea-weed 
capture in the water, before it was " divested of its extra- 
ordinary-looking living appendages," was three feet. 


A large mass of evidence has been accumulated ; and 
I now set myself to examine it. In so doing, I shall 
eliminate from the inquiry, all the testimony of Norwegian 
eye-witnesses, that obtained in Massachusetts in 1817, 
and various statements made by French and American 
captains since. Confining myself to English witnesses 
of known character and position, most of thera being 

* The Times of Feb. 16, 1858. 

, ^ 





officers under the crown, I have adduced the following 
testimonies : 

: 1. That of five British officers, who saw the animal at 
Hahfax, N.S., in 1833. 

r;,2. That of Captain M'Quhse and his officers, who saw 
it from the Doedalus in 1848. 

I 3. That of Captain Beechey, who saw something similar 
from the Blossom. 

••• 4. That of Mr Morries Stirling, who saw it in a Nor- 
wegian fjord. 

I/. 5. That of Mr Davidson, who saw it from \h.Q Royal 
Saxon, in 1829. 

>y Q. That of Captain Steele and others, who saw it from 
i}iQ Barliam, in 1852. 

7. That of Captain Harrington and his officers, who 
saw it from the Gastilian, in 1857. 
j;- Carefully comparing these independent narratives, we 
have a creature possessing the following characteristics : 
• 1. The general form of a serpent (1, 2, 3,* 4, 5, 6, 7). 

2. Great length, say above sixty feet, (1, 2, 5, 6, 71"). 

3. Head considered to resemble that of a serpent, (1, 2, 


1 .4.' Neck from twelve to sixteen inches in diameter, 


(1, § 2, 4, 5). 

■f * 

* Captain Beechey's view was too momentary to be of much value; 
the object he saw he compares to the trunk of a tree, which, so far a^ 
it goeSj agrees with the serpent shape. 

+ From two hundred to five hundred feet (7). 

X " Like a long nun-buoy" (7). 

§ " That of a moderate-sized tree" (1). 


* , 


5. Appendages on the head (7), neck (6). oi biiclv 
(2, 5), resembling a crest or mane. (Considerate discrep- 
ancy in details.) 

6. Colour dark brown (1, 2, 5, 7), or green (6) ; streaked 
or spotted with white (1, 2, 5, 6, 7). 

7. Swims at surface "of the water (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), 

Avith a rapid (1, 2, 5), or slow (4, 6, 7), movement ; the 

head and neck projected and elevated above the surface 

(1, 2, 5, 6, 7). 

8. Progression steady and uniform ; the body straight 
(2, 5, 6), but capable of being thrown into convolutions 


9. Spouts in the manner of a whale (6). 

To which of the recognised classes of created beings 
can this huge rover of the ocean be referred? And, first, 
is it an animal at all ? That there are immense algse in 
the ocean, presenting some of the characters described, 
has been already shewn ; and on two occasions an object 
supposed to be the "sea-serpent" proved on examination 
to be but a sea-weed floating ; the separated and inverted 
roots of which, projecting in the roll of the swell, seemed 


a head, and the fronds (in the one case) and (in the other) 
a number of attached barnacles, resembled a shaggy mane 
washed about in the water. 

But surely it must have been a very dim and indistinct 
view of the floating and ducking object, which could have 
mistaken this for a Rving animal ; * and it would be 

* The distance is estimated at lialf a mile on both occasions. . {Set 
the accounts of Captains Ilevriman and Smith.) 


4 i 


absurd in the highest degrc^, to presume that of such a 
.nature could be the creatures, goiag rapidly throuoh the 

water at ten or twebe miles an hour, with the head and 
yieck elevated, so distinctly seen by Captain M'Qiihse and 

Mr Davidson, the former at two huTidred, the latter at 

thirty-five yards' distance. We may fairly dismiss the 
, , sea-weed hypothesis. 

w:, Among animals, the Vertehrata are fho cnly classes 
supposable. But of these, which ? Birds are out of the 
question ;— but Mammalia, Reptilian Pisces, — there is 
no antecedent absurdity in assigning it to either «of these. 
Each of these classes contains species of lengthened form, 
of vast dimensions, of pelagic habit ; and to each has 
. the creature been, by different authorities, assigned. 

Let us, then, look at the Mammalia. Here Professor 
;Owen would place it; and his opinion on a zoological 
question has almost the force of an axiom. I trust I shall 
not be accused of presumption if I venture to examine 
the decision of one whom I so greatly respect. It is true, 
his reasoning applies directly only to the creature seen 
from the Daedalus; but we are bound to consider the 
exigencies not only of that celebrated case, but of all the 


other well-authenticated cases. 

-4 * 

■ Professor Owen thus draws up the characters of the 
animal: — *' Head with a convex, moderately capacious 
cranium, short obtuse muzzle, gape not extending further 
than the eye ; eye rather small, round, filling closely the 
palpehral aperture ; colour dark brown above, yellowish 
white beneath ; surface smooth, without scales, scutes, or 


other conspicuous modifications of hard and naked cuticle, 
nostrils not mentioned, but indicated in the drawing by 
a crescentic mark at the end of the nose or muzzle ; 
body long, dark brown, not undulating, without dorsal or 
other apparent fins ; — * but something like the mane of a 
horse, or rather a bunch of sea-weed washed about its 
back. ' " 

The earlier of these characters are those " of the head 
of a warm-blooded mammal ; none of them those of a 
cold-blooded reptile or fish." The comparison of the 
dimly-seen something on the back to a horse's mane or 
sea-weed, seems to indicate a clothing of hair; and, guided 
by this interpretation, the Professor judges that the 
animal was not a cetacean, but rather a great seal. 

Now, it is manifest that it was from the pictorial 
sketches, more than from the verbal description of 
Captain M'Quhae, that this diagnosis was drawn up. And 
if the drawings had been made yrom the life, under the 
direction of a skilful zoologist, nothing could be more 

legitimate than such a use of them. But surely it has 
been overlooked that they were made under no such 
circumstances. Only one of the published representations 
was original ; and this was taken '* immediately ( 
the animal was seen." * That is, one of the officers, who 
could draw, went below immediately, and attempted to 
reproduce what his eye was still filled with. Now, what 

The enlarged view of the head was no doubt made up from ono 
of the other drawings expressly for the Illustrated London News, and 
therefore claims no independent value. 


4 ■> 



could one expect under such conditions ? Of course, the 
artist was not a zoologist, or we should have had a 
zoologist's report. Would the drawing so produced be of 
any value ? Surely yes ; of great value. It would doubt- 
less be a tolerably faithful representation of the general 
appearance of the object seen, but nothing more ; its 
form, and position, and colour, and such of the details as 

_ ri 

the observer had distinctly noticed, and marked down, 
so to speak, in his mind, would be given ; but a great 

deal of the details would be put in by mere guess 

When a person draws from an object before him, he 
ineasures the various lines, curves, angles, relative dis- 
tances, and so on, with his eye, one by one, and puts them 
down seriatim ; ever looking at the part of the original 
on which he is working, for correction. But no possibility 
of doing this was open to the artistic midshipman ; he 
had merely his vivid, but necessarily vague, idea of the 
whole before him as the original from which he drew. 
Who is there that could carry all the details of an object 
in the memory, after a few minutes' gaze, and that, too, 
under strong^ excitement ? This was not the case even of 
a cool professional artist, called in to view an object for 
the purpose of depicting it ; in all probability the officer 
had not thouQjht of sketching it till all was over, and 

had made no precise observations, his mind being mainly 
occupied by wonder. He sits down, pencil in hand ; he 
dashes in the general outline at once ; now he comes to 
details, — say the muzzle, the facial angle ; — of course, hia 


figure must have some facial angle, some outline of 


muzzle ; but probably he had not particularly noticed 
that point. What shall he do ? there is no original before 
him, a glance at which would decide ; he sketches on a 
scrap of paper by his side two or three forms of head ; 
perhaps he shews the paper to a brother officer, with a 
question, " Which of these do you tiiink most like the 


head ? " and then he puts the one selected in his sketch, 
and so of other details. 


Those who are not used to drawing will think I am 
making a caricature. I am doing no such thing. I have 
been accustomed for nearly forty years to draw animals 
from the life; and the public are able to judge of my 
power of representing what I see ; but I am quite sure 
that if I were asked to depict an object unfamiliar to 
me, which I had been looking at for a quarter of an hour, 
without thinking that 1 should have to draw it, I should 
do, in fifty points of detail, just what T have supposed 
the officer to have done. Let my reader try it. Get hold 
of one of your acquaintances, whom you know to be a 
skilful, but non-professional artist, whose attention has 
never been given to flowers ; take him into your green- 
house, and shew hira some very beautiful thing in blossom; 
keep him looking at it for some ten minutes without a 
hint of what you are thinking of, then take him into your 
drawing-room, put paper and colours before him, and 
say, " Make me a sketch of that plant you have just seen!" 
When it is done, take it to a botanist, and ask him to 

4 W 

give you the characters of the genus and species from 
the sketch ; or compare it yourself with the original, and 



how many ami. what ludicrous bhmdcrs had been 
made in details, while there was a fair general correct- 


^i 'Viewed in this light, it will be manifest how inefficient 
the sketch made on board the Dcedalus must be for 
■minute characters ; and particularly those which in the 
diagnosis above I have marked with italics. Yet these 
are the characters mainly relied on to prove the mammalian 
iftature of the animal. Some of these characters could 


not possibly have been determined at two hundred yards' 
distance. I say "mainly relied on;" because there is 
vthe mane-like appendage yet to be accounted for. This is 
1 strong point certainly in favour of a mammalian, and 

of a phocal nature ; whether it decides the question, 
however, I will presently examine. 

■•'-'The head in either of the large sketches (those, I mean, 

-in which the creature is represented in the sea) does not 

' appear to me at all to resemble that of a seal ; nor do I 

"see a "vaulted cranium." The summit of the head does 

not rise above the level of the summit of the neck; in 

other words, the vertical diameter of the head and neck 

are equal, while there are indications that the occiput 

considerably exceeds the neck in transverse diameter. 

This is not the case with any seal, but 



characteristic of eels, of many serpents, and some lizards. 
Let . the reader compare the lower figure {Illustrated 


London Neius, Oct. 28, 1848) with that of the Broad- 
liosed Eel in Yarrell's British Fishes, (Ed. ii., vol. ii., 

p. 396.) 

The head of 

of the scincoid lizard 


I 1 


Jamaican Celestus occiduus, for instance) is not at all 


unlike that represented ; it is full as vaulted, and as short, 


m V 

but a little more pointed, and with a flatter facial angle. 

On this point the Captain's assertion corrects the drawing ; 

for in reply to Professor Owen he distinctly asserts that 
"the head was flat, and not a capacious vaulted cranium;'* 
and the description of Lieutenant Drummond, published 
before any strictures were made on the point, says, 
" the head : . . . was long, pointed, and flattened at 
the top, perhaps ten feet in length, the upper jaw project- 
ing considerably." ' ' 

With regard to the " mane. " The great Phoca pro- 
boscidea is the only seal which will bear comparison with 
the Dcedalus animal in dimensions, reaching from twenty 
to thirty feet. H. M. officers declare that upwards of 
sixty feet of their animal were visible at the surface ; but 
Mr Owen supposes, not improbably, that the disturbance 
of the water produced by progression induced an illusive 
appearance of a portion of this length. But how much ? 
Suppose all behind thirty feet, the extreme length of the 
elephant seal. Then it is impossible the animal could 

J \ 

have been such a seal, for the following reason. The 
fore paws of the seal are placed at about one-third of the 
total length from the muzzle ; that is, in a seal of thirty 
feet long, at ten feet behind the muzzle. But twenty feet 
of the " serpent" were projected from the water, and yet 
no appearance of fins was seen. Lieutenant Drummond 
judges the head to have been ten feet in length (with 
which the lower figure, assuming sixty or sixty-five feet 



as the total length drawn, well agrees;) and besides this, 
at least an equal length of neck was exposed. 
5i But the great Phoca prohoscidea has no mane at all. 
For this, we must have recourse to other species, knoAvn as 
sea-lions. Two kinds are recognised under this name, 
Otaria juhata and Platyrhynchus leoninus ; though there 
is some confusion in the names. Neither of these ever 
exceeds sixteen feet in total length, of which, about five 
feet would be the utmost that could project from the 
water in swimming. Suppose, however, the eyes of the 
gallant officers to have magnified the leonine seal to suffi- 
cient dimensions ; I fear even then it will not do. For 
the mane in these animals is a lenirthenins: and 

v.**^ ^ ^ 

V ' 

of the hair on the occiput and on the neck, just as in the 

X ■ ■ 

lion. .. But the "serpent's" mane was not there, but "per- 
haps twenty feet in the rear of the head," says Lieutenant 
Drummond; it "washed about its back/' says Captain 


, ., I do not hesitate to say, therefore, that on data we at 

present possess the seal hypothesis appears to me quite 


It is by no means impossible that the creature may 
prove to belong to the Cetacea or whale tribe. I know of 
no reason why a slender and lengthened form should not 
exist in this order. The testimony of Colonel Steele, who 
represents his animal as spouting, points in this direction. 

As to its place among Fishes, Dr Mantell and Mr 
Melville* consider that the Dcedalus animal may have 

i "i 


♦ See Zoologist, p. 2310, 


\ J 



been one of the sharks ; and there is no doubt that the 
celebrated Stronsa animal, which was considered by Dr 
Barclay as the Norwegian sea-serpent, was really the 
Selache maxima or basking shark. But the identification 
of Captain M'Quhse's figure and description with a shark 
is prej)osterous. 

There are, however, the ribbon-fishes ; and some of these, 
as the hair-tail, the Vaegmaer, and the Gymnetrus, are of 
large size, and slender sword-like form. Several kinds 
have been found in the North Atlantic, and wherever seen 
they invariably excite wonder and curiosity. All of these 
are furnished with a back-fin ; but in other respects they 
little correspond with the descriptions of the animal in 
question. One of their most strikin 
over, is, that their surface resembles polished steel or silver. 

A far greater probability exists, that there may be 
some oceanic species of the eel tribe, of gigantic dimen- 
sions. Our own familiar conger is found ten feet in 
length. Certainly, Captain M'Quhse's figures remind me 
strongly of an eel ; supposing the pectorals to be either 
so small as to be inconspicuous at the distance at which 
the animal was seen, or to be placed more than com- 
monly far back. 

To the Reptiles, however, popular opinion has pretty 
uniformly assigned this denizen of the sea ; and his 
accepted title of "sea-serpent" sufficiently indicates his 
zoological affinities in the estimation of the majority of 
those who believe in him. Let us, then, test his claims 
to be a serpent. 


P J_ 



-The marine habit presents no difficulty. For, in the 
Indian and Pacific Oceans, there are numerous species 
of true snakes (HydropJiidce), which are excUisively in- 
habitants of the sea. , They are reported to remain much 
at' the sur'ace, and even to sleep so soundly there that 

passing of a ship through a group sometimes fails 



to awaken them. 
•None of these are known to exceed a few feet in leno-th. 

low, none of them have been found 

d. so far as we k 

in the Atlantic. It is remarkable, however, that a record 
exists of a serpent having been seen in the very midst of 
the North Atlantic. The Zoologist 


, 1911) has pub- 
lished a communication signed, " S. H. Saxby, Bon- 
church, Isle of Wight," containing an extract from the 

log-book of a very near relative, dated August 1, 1786, on 
board the ship General Coole, in latitude 42° 4-1)' N., 
and ' io'nm tude 23° 10' W, ; that is, a little to the north- 

east of the Azores. It is as follows : 





snaJce passed the ship : it appeared to be about sixteen or 
eighteen feet in length, and three or four feet in circum- 
ference ; the back of a lightish colour, and the belly tliereof 
yellow." According to the log, the ship was becalmed at 


the time Mr Saxby vouches for the correctness of the 
statement, and adds, that any one is welcome to see the 
original record. It augments very considerably the value 
of this incident, that no suggestion of identity with the 


Norwegian dragon appears to have occurred to the ob- 
server : he speaks of It as "a snake," and nothing more ; 
the dimensions alone appear to have excited surprise; 


"sixteen or eighteen feet," and these are by no means 


On the whole, I am disposed to accept this case as that 
of a true serpent — perhaps the Boa murina, one of the 
largest known, and of very aquatic habits — carried out 
to sea by one of the great South American rivers, and 
brought by the gulf stream to the spot where it was seen. 

If I am warranted in this conclusion, it affords us no help 
in the identification of the great unknown. 

I do not attach much value to the assertions of obser- 
vers, that the head of the animal seen by them respectively 
was "undoubtedly that of a snake." Such comparisons 
made by persons unaccustomed to mark the characteristic 
peculiarities which distinguish one animal from another, 
are vague and unsatisfactory. Their value, at all events, 
is rather negative than positive. For example ; if a per- 
son of liberal education and general information, but no 
naturalist, were to tell me he had seen a creature with a 
head " exactly like that of a snake ;'' I should understand 
him, that the head was not that of an ordinary beast, nor 
of a bird, nor that of the generality of fishes ; but I should 
have no confidence at all that it was not as like that 
of a lizard as of a serpent ; and should entertain doubts 
whether, if I shewed him the form of head, even of cer- 
tain fishes, he would not say, — " Yes, it was something 
like thaC 

^ \ t 

There does not seem, then, any sufficient evidence that 
the colossal animal seen from the Dcedalus, and on other 
occasions, is a serpent, in the sense in which zoologists use 



f 4 


y - 

that term. A lengthened cylindrical form it seems to 


have ; but, for anything that appears, it may as well be a 
monstrous eel, or a slender cetacean, as anything. All ana- 
logies arid probabilities are against its being an ophidian, 
''■It yet remains to consider the hypothesis advanced by 
Mr E. Newman, Mr Morries Stirling, and "F. G. S.,"* 
that the so-called sea-serpent will find its closest affinities 
with those extraordinary animals, the Enaliosauria, or 
Marine Lizards, whose fossil skeletons are found so 
abundiiritly scattered through the oolite and tlie lias. The 
figure of Plesiosdurus, as restored in Professor Ansted's 
Ancient World has a cranium not less capacious or 
vaulted than that given in Captain MQuhse's figures ; to 
which, indeed, but that the muzzle in the latter is more 
abbreviate, it bears a close resemblance. The head was 
fixed at the extremity of a neck, composed of thirty to forty 
vertebrae, which, from its extraordinary length, slender- 
riess,' and flexibility, must have been the very counterpart 
of the body of a serpent. This snake-like neck merged 
insensibly into a compact and moderately slender body, 
which carried two pairs of paddles, very much like those 
of • a sea- turtle, and terminated behind in a gradually 

attenuated tail. 

Thus, if the Plesiosaur could have been seen alive, you 
would have discerned nearly its total length at the sur- 
face of the water, propelled at a rapid rate, without any 
undulation, 'by an apparatus altogether invisible, — the 
powerful paddles beneath ; while the entire serpentina 

■ J 

♦SeesM^m, pp SI 8, 320. 



neck would probably be projected obliquely, carrying the' 
reptilian head, with an eye of moderate aperture, and a 
mouth whose gape did not extend behind the eye. Add 

to this a covering of the body not formed of scales, bony 

_ r 

plates, or other form of solidified integument, but a yield- 

ing, leathery skin, probably black and smooth, like 


of a whale ; give the creature a length of some sixty feet 


or more, and you would have before you almost the very 


1 ". -■ 

counterpart of the apparition that wrought such amaze- 

'■ ' " 

ment on board the Dwdalus. The position of the nostrils 
at the summit of the head indicates, that, on first coming 
to the surface from the dej^)ths of the sea, the animal 
would spout in the manner of the whales, — a circumstance 
reported by some observers of the sea-serpent. 

I must confess that I am myself far more disposed to 
acquiesce in this hypothesis than in any other that' has 
been mooted. Not that I would identify the animals 
seen with the actual Plesiosaurs of the lias. None of 
them yet discovered appear to exceed thirty-five feet in 
length, which is scarcely half sufficient to meet the exi- 
gencies of the case. I should not look for any species, 
scarcely even any genus, to be perpetuated from the oolitic . 


period to the ^Diesent. Admitting the actual continua- , 
tion of the order Enaliosauria, it would be, I think, 
quite in conformity with general analogy to find important 

^ t 

t A 


generic modifications, probably combining some salient 
features of several extinct forms. Thus the little known 

■ r 

Pliosaur had many of the peculiarities of the Plesiosaur, 
without its extraordinarily elongated ne(dv, while it vastly 

r L 

► , 



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* ^ , 



( i 

^r ; *, . 




; n. 

^ f 

r * 

-^ J - ^ ^ I 


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. . f.-- 


V ^ 

.- "l 



exceeded it in dimensions. What if the existing form 
should be essentially a Plesiosaur, with the colossal mag- 
nitude of a Fliosaur ? 

There seems to be no real structural difficulty in such 
a supposition except the " mane," or waving appendage, 
which has so frequently been described by those who 
profess to have seen the modern animal. This, however, 
is a difficulty of ignorance, rather than of contradiction. 
We do not know that the smooth integument of the Fna- 
liosaurs was destitute of any such appendage, and I do 
not think there is any insuperable improbability in the 
case. The nearest analogy that I can suggest, however, 
is that of the Chlamydosaur, a large terrestrial lizard of 
Australia, whose lengthened neck is furnished with a very 
curious plaited frill of thin membrane, extending like 
wings or fins to a considerable distance from the animal.* 

Two strong objections, however, stand in tlie way of 
our acceptance of the present existence of Enaliosauria ; 
and these are forcibly presented by Professor Owen. 
They are, — 1. The hypothetical improbability of sucli 
forms having been transmitted from the era of the secon- 
dary strata to the present time; and, 2. The entire 
absence of any parts of tlie carcases or unfossilised skele- 
tons of such animals in museums. 

My ignorance of the details of palaeontology makes me 

* It was not till after this paragraph was written that I noticed tho 
very close similarity of the fins with v/hich Hans Egede has adorned 
his fitrure of the sea-seroent. (copied in the Illustrated London News, 




feel very diffident in attempting to touch the for:-»^"r 
point, especially when so great an authority has pro- 
nounced an opinion ; still I will modestly express one or 

two thoughts on it. 


There does not seem any d priori reason why early 
forms should not be perpetuated; and examples are 


no means rare of animals much anterior, geologically, to 
the EnaliosaurSy being still extant. The very earliest 
forms of fishes are of the Placo'id type, and it is remark- 
able, that not only is that type still living in consideral)le 
numbers, but the most gigantic examples of this class 
belong to it, — viz., the sharks and rays ; and these ex- 
hibiting peculiarities which by no means remove them 
far from ancient types. The genus Chimcera appears in 
the oolite, the wealden, and the chalk ; disappears (or 
rather is not found) in any of the tertiary formations, but 
reappears, somewhat rarely, in the modern seas. • It is 
represented by two species "inhabiting respectively the 
Arctic and Antarctic Oceans. 


Now, this is exactly a parallel case to what is conjec- 
tured of the Enaliosaiirs. They appear in the oolite and 
the chalk, are not found in the tertiary strata, but re- 
appear, rarely, in the modern seas, represented by two 

or more species inhabiting the Northern and Southern 

Among Eeptiles, the curious family of river tortoises 
named Trionychidce, distinguished by their long neck, and 
abroad cartilaginous margin to 'the small back-shell, ap- 
pears first in the wealden. No traces occur of it in any 


- subsequent formation, till the present period, when we 

- find it represented by the large and savage inhabitants of 
1 the Mississippi, the Nile, and the Ganges. 

What is still more to the purpose is, that the Ifjua- 

nodoi,' Si. vast saurian which was contemporary with the 

-■Plesiosaur and Ichthyosaur, though transmitting no ob- 


served representative of its form through the tertiary 
era, is yet well represented by the existing Iguaiiadce of 
the American tropics. 

7i' 'J 

It is true the Iguana is not an Iguanodon; but the 
-; forms are closely allied. I do not suppose that the so- 
called sea-serpent is an actual Plesiosaur, but an animal 
^•bearing a similar relation to that ancient type. The 
u Iguanodon has degenerated (I speak of the type, and not 
i of the species) to the small size of the Iguana; the 
' {Plesiosaurus may have become developed to the gigantic 
'I dimensions of the sea-serpent. 

Mi J A' correspondent of the Zoologist (p. 2395) adduces the 

great authority of Professor Agassiz to the possibility of 

the present existence of the Enaliosaurian type. That 

•-eminent palaeontologist is represented as saying, that "it 

:would be in precise conformity with analogy that such an 

• animal should exist in the American seas, as he had 

,' found numerous instances in which the fossil forms of 

the Old World were represented by living types in the 

New. He instanced the gar-pike of the Western rivers, 

'and said he had found several instances in his recent 

visit to Lake Superior, where he had detected several 

fishes belonging to genera now extinct in Europe." 


On this point, however, an actual testimony exists, to 


which I cannot but attach a very great value. Mr 
Edward Newman, in the same volume of the Zoologist 

that I have just cited, (p. 2356,) records what he con- 
siders " in all respects the most interesting natural-history 
fact of the present century." It is as follows : 

" Caj^tain the Hon. George Hope states, that, when in 
H.M.S. Fly, in the Gulf of California, the sea being per- 
fectly calm and transparent, he saw at the bottom a 
large marine animal, with the head and general figure of 
an alligator,* except that the neck was much longer, and 
that instead of legs the creature had four large flappers, 
somewhat like those of turtles, the anterior pair being 
larger than the posterior. The creature was distinctly 
visible, and all its movements could be observed with 


ease. It appeared to be pursuing its prey at the bottom 
of the sea. Its movements were somewhat serpentine, 
and an appearance of annulations or ring-like divisions 
of the body were distinctly percej^tible. Captain Hope 
made this relation in company, and as a matter of con- 
versation. When I heard it from the gentleman to whom 
it was narrated, I inquired whether Captain Hope was 

Mr Marshall^ in his interesting " Four Years in Barmah/' just pub- 
lished^ mentions his having seen an " alligator *' forty-five feet in length, 
swintniing in the Irawaddy, with the head and nearly half of the body 
out of the water. He is confident that it was travelling at the rate of at 
least thirty miles an hour, and this against a very strong tide I What 
could this have been ? Surely no Crocodilian; for the great Gavial, the 
largest of known Saurians, is little more than one-third of this length. 
MM. Dumeril and Bibron give the dimensions of the largest on record 
as 5 met. 40 centim., or about 17^ feet. 

- j.\ 



A . -^ 

ac(^uainted witli those remarkable fossil animals, Ichthyo- 
sauri arid Plesiosauri, the supposed forms of which so 
nearly correspond with what he describes as having seen 
alive, and I cannot find that he had heard of them. 


the alligator being the only animal he mentioned as 

bearing a partial similarity to the creature in question. 

Now, unless this officer was egregiously deceived, he 


+ - 

saw an animal which could have been no other than an 

Enaliosaur, — a marine reptile of large size, of sauroid 


figure, with turtle-like paddles. "I* It is a pity that no 
estimate, even approximate, of the dimensions is given ; 

-■ I ' 

but as the alligator affords the comparison as to form, it 
is most probable that there was a general agreement with 
it in size. This might make it some twelve or fifteen 

*^ 4 ■ - 


feet in ler 

•- ' ■ ■ 1 

* "71 

I cannot, then, admit that either the general substitu- 
tion of Cetacea for Enaliosauria in our era, or the ab- 


Zoologisty p. 2356, 
f Dr J. E. Gray long ago expressed his opinion, that some undescribed 
form exists, which is intermediate between the tortoises and the ser- 
pents. '' There is every reason to beheve, from general structure, that 
there exists an affinity between the tortoises and the snakes; but the 
genus that exactly unites them is at present unknov/n to European 
naturalists; which is not astonishing when we consider the immense 
number of undescribed animals which are daily occurring. Mr Macleay 
thought that those two orders might be united by means of Emys Ion- 

aicoUis (the long-necked tortoise) of Shaw; but the family to which 
this animal belongs appears to be the one which unites this class to the 
crocodile. If I may be allowed to speculate from the peculiarities of 
structure which I have observed, I am inclined to think that the union 
will most probably take place by some newly discovered genera allied to 
the marine or fluviatile soft-skinned turtles, and the marine serpent 

Synopsis of Gen 0/ Jitpciles, m Ann. of PJdlos.. 1825. 

»» • 




sence of remains of the latter in the tertiary deposits, is 
sufficient evidence of their non-existence in our seas ; any 
more than the general replacement of Placo'id and Ga- 
no'id fishes by the Cycloids and Ctenoids, or the absence 
of the former two from the tertiaries, is proof of their 
present non-existence. 

It must not be forgotten, as Mr Darwin has ably in- 
sisted, that the specimens we possess of fossil organisms 
are very far indeed from being a complete series. They 
are rather fragments accidentally preserved, by favouring 
circumstances, in an almost total wreck. The Enalio- 
sauria, particularly abundant in the secondary epoch, 
may have become sufficiently scarce in the tertiary to 
have no representative in these preserved fragmentary 


collections, and yet not have been absolutely extinct.* 

But Professor Owen presses also the absence of any 
recognised recent remains of such animals. Let us test 
this evidence first by hypothesis, and then by actual fact. 
It may be that a true serpent, with large vesicular 
lungs, would float when dead, and be liable to be seen by 
navigators in that condition, or to be washed ashore, 
where its peculiar skeleton would be sure to attract notice. 
But, as I have before said, I do not by any means believe 
that the unknown creature is a serpent in the zoological 
sense. . Would a Plesiosaurus float when dead ? I think 
not. It is supposed to have had affinities with the whales. 

1 V 

* I reason as a geologist, on geological premises, — reserving my own 
Cimvictions on the subject of prochronwn, which would not affect ^thia 


Now^.a whale sinks like lead as soon as the blubber is 
removed ; the surface-fat alone causes a whale to float. 
But we have no warrant for assuming that the Plesiosaur 
was encased in a thick blanket of blubber ; no oreolo<nst 
has suggested any such thing, and the long neck forbids 
it; and if not, doubtless it would sink, and not float, 
when dead. Therefore the strandinoj of such a carcase, 
or the washing ashore of such a skeleton, would most 
probably be an extr tamely rare occurrence, even if the 
animal were as abundant as the sperm-whale; but, on 
the supposition that the species itself is almost extinct, 
we ought not to expect such an incident, perhaps, in a 
thousand years. If we add to this the recollection, 


how , small a portion of the border of the ocean is 


habitually viewed by persons able to discriminate be- 
tween the vertebrae of an Enaliosaur and those of a 


Qetac^aii, we shall not, I think, attach great imjDortanoe 
to this objection. 

The only region of the globe, in which the unknown 

monster is reputed to be in any sense common, is the 
coast of Norway. Now this, it is true, is fortunately 

within the ken of civilised and scientific man ; and, con- 

no enormous ophid 




ever been recognised on that shore. But the shore of 
Norway is, perhaps, the least favourable in the world for 
such a jetsam. Such a thing as a sand or shingle beach 


is scarcely known ; the coast is almost exclusively what 
is called iron-bound ; the borders' of the deej^ly indented 

f J 

fjords rise abruptly out of the sea, so that there is gene- 





rally from fifty to three hundred fathoms' depth of water 
within a boat's lenoth of the shore. How could a carcase 


4 ri 

0^ a skeleton be cast up here, even if it floated ? 

But, secondly, as to facts. Is it true, that of all the 
larger oceanic animals we find the carcases or skeletons 


cast up on the shore ? Is it true even of the Cetacea, 
whose blubber-covered bodies invariably ensure their 


floating, and whose bones are so saturated with oil that 

they are but little heavier than water? 

In September, 1825, a cetacean wa^ stranded on the 
French coast which was previously unloiown to natural- 


It was so fortunate as to fall under the examina- 

tion of so eminent an zoologist as De Blainville; and hence 
its anatomy was well investigated. It has become cele- 



brated as the Toothless Whale of Havre (Aodon Dalei). 
Yet no other example of this species is on record; and, 
but for this accident, a whale inhabiting the British 
Channel would be quite unrecognised. 


Of another whale (Diodon Sowerhyi), likewise British, 
our entire knowledge rests on a single individual which 
was cast on shore on the Elgin coast, and was seen and 
described by the naturalist Sowerby. 

There is a species of sperm-whale (Physeter tursio) 
affirmed to be frequently seen about the Shetland Islands ; 

L + 

a vast creature of sixty feet in 


and readily dis 

guishable from all other Cetacea by its lofty dorsal 

d. accord 


old Sibbald, by other 


able pe 


ny. Yet no specimen of this huge 

has fallen under modern scientific observat 

'^ ^ 


and zoologists are not yet agreed atnong themselves, 
whether the Hii>h-finncd Cachalot is a nivth or a reality! 

M. RafinescLue Smaltz, a Sicilian naturalist, described a 
Cetacean which, he said, he had seen in the Mediterranean, 
possessing two dorsals. The character was so abnormal 
that his statement was not received ; but the eminent 
zoologists attached to one of the French exploring expedi- 
tions, — -MM. Quoy and Gaimard, — saw a school of cetacca 
around their ship in the South Pacifc, having tliis extra- 
ordinary character, — the supernumerary fin being placed 
on the back of the head. Here is the evidence of com- 
petent naturalists to the existence of a most remarkable 
whale, no carcase of which, no skeleton, has ever been 
recog n ised. 

The last example I shall adduce is from my own ex- 
perience. During my voyage to Jam.aica, when in lat. 
19° N., and long, from 4G° to 48° W., the ship was sur- 

rounded for seventeen continuous hours with a troop of 
whales, of a species which is certainly undesciibed. I 
had ample opportunity for examination, and found that 
it was a Belphinorhynchus, thirty feet in length, black 
above and white beneath, with the swimming paws white 
on the upper surface, and isolated by the surrounding 
black of the npper parts, — a very remarkable character. 
This could not have been the Toothless Whale of Havre : 
and there is no other wi'th which it can be confounded. 
Here, then, is a whale of large size, occurring in great 
numbers in the North Atlantic, which on no other occa- 
sion has fallen under scientific observation. 



Are not these facts, then, sufficiently weighty to re- 
strahi us from rejecting so great an amount of testimony 

to the so-called sea-serpent, merely on the ground that 
its dead remains have not come under examination ? 


In conclusion, I express my own confident persuasion, 
that there exists some oceanic animal of immense propor- 
tions, which has not yet been received into the category 
of scientific zoology ; and my strong opinion, that it pos- 
sesses close affinities With the fossil Enaliosauria of the 

M ^ 

T » 

' . * b i 


4 f- 

1 ^ 


. * 


;•? (V. V 

- r 

V ^ 

r H 

c * ■ f- 



^ i ;. ■■ 



P^ * ' 

I t 



I , 

'" ' I .' '' 




Adventure with bear, 245 — ele- 
phant, 247, 249— rhinoceros, 250, 
251 — buffalo, 251 — kangaroo, 254 
all igator, 2 6 3 — serpents, 2C 5 - 
269— bees, 2G9. 

Africa, night in, 33 — elephant in, 
56— beasts of, 119, 246, 284. 

Alatou Mountains, 46. 

Alligator, Voracity of, 263. 

Altaian, sunset in, 23. 

Andes, scene in, 49. 

Animalcules, 159. 

Animals, jealousy of, 197 — combats 
with, 241 — undiscovered, 279. 

Anurceay 170. 

Arachnodiscxis, 154, 

Arctic regions, 1. 

Aurora borealis, 1. 

Autumn in America, 10 — ^Alps, 12. 

Banyan, 133. 

Baobab, 135. 

Bees, encounter with, 269. 

Beagle Channel, 47. 

Bear, brown, 244 — Syrian, 244 

grizzly, 245. 

Beaver pond, 13. 

Bird of paradise, 183 — of Washing- 
ton, 184. 

Birds, voices of, 4 — awakening of, 

17 — oceanic, 81 — planting forests, 

103 — tameness of, 195. 
Bison, Russian, 203. 
Bittern, boom of, 227 — American, 

Blind Fauna, 76. 
Brine, life in, 73. 
Buffalo, fury of, 251. 
Burrell, 54. 
Bushmaster, 267. 
Butterflies in spring, 5 — in Brazil, 

59— king of, 1 89. 

Cachalot, common, 116, 223 

high-finned, 316. 
Cactus, giant, 130. 

Cane, length of, 129. 

Carchesium, 162. 

Caves, blind animals of, 76. 

Chamois, 208. 

Chuck-will's widow, 173. 

Churchyard, adventure in, 181. 





Collecting, pleasures of, 271 
Jamaica, 272 — in Brazil, 274 

in Arrvi, 278. 
Condor, 119. 
Coral formations, 89. 
Crocodile, 262. 
Crusting, 207. 
Cuttle, assault of, 235. 
Cypress, large, 136. 
Cypress swamp, 228. 



Darter, 215. 

Depths, life at, 64, 292. 

Desert, life in, 68. 
Devil-bird, 230. 

Diatoms, forms of, 96, 154 — influ- 
ence of, 96 — increase of, 155. 
Dogs, wild, 238. 
Dragon-tree, 133. 
Duck, summer, 199. 

Eagle, Washington's, 184 — ^jealousy 

of, 198. 
Egg of salpina, 167. 
Elephant in Africa, 56 — height of, 

117 — rage of, 247. 
Elevations, insects of, 87. 
EnallomiLn, existing, 361. 

Fauna, blind, 76. 

Fawn, Gemzd, 210. 
Fern-owls, 186. 
Ferns, tree, 178. 
Fire-flies, 34. 

Fishes in boiling water, 75 — in bed, 

87 — in parlour, 88. 
Flies, i^lagues of, 110. 
Flints, origin of, 100. 
^lo&cularia, 163. 

Flowers, spring, 6. 
Forest, leafing of, 7 — coloui-s of, 10 

in Brazil, 59, 179 — planted by 
birds, 103 — in Jamaica, 177. 
Frost, efifects of, 3. -^ 

Ganges, source of, 55 

Gazelle, 39. 
Golubacser fly. 111, 

Gorilla, 257. 
Grebes, 114. 
Guacharo, 76, 232. 
Guanaco, 49. 

Gum-trees, large, 138. 



Hanno, voyage of, 257. 
Heliconia, 175. 
Hot springs, life in, 75. 
Hyena in Palmyra, 41. 


Ice, trees in, 68. 


Iguana, case of, 361. 
Infusoria, 159. 

Insects, destructive, 105 — water, 15 
luminous, 34 — brine, 73 — at 
sea, 84 — at great heights, 87. 
Invisible, the, 153. 
Islands, coral, 90. 

Jackal, shriek of, 237. 
Jamaica, morning in, 16 — forest in, 
177— collecting in, 272. 

Kangaroo, combat with, 254. 

Lagoons, 93. 

Liimmergeyer, 45. 
Leafing of trees, 7. 
Lion at midnight, 67 

r 4 




Locust-tree, size of, 138. 
Locusts, ravages of, 105. 

I L 


' -* 

Mammoth-tree, 141. 

Manoota, 268. 
Melicertay 150. 

Methuen, peril of, 251. 
Moose, caution of, 205. 
Monkeys, voices of, 237. 
Morning in Newfoundland, 13 — in 

Jamaica, 16 — in Venezuela, 18^ 

in the Oural, 19. 
Moss in Africa, 192. 
Mothing, 24. 

M'Quhse, Captain, sees sea-serpent, 

315 — replies to Owen, 332. 
Musquito, 112. 

Newfoundland, morning in, 13. 
Noon, winter in England, 20 — in 
Brazil, 21. 

Notommata, 165. 

Night in the Alps, 26 — in Jamaica, 
27— sounds of, 28 — on the Ama- 
zon, 32 — in Africa, 33 — among 
fern-owls, 186. 

* 1 


Oak, large, 137. 
Ocean, depths of, 290. 

Ornithoptera, 188. 
Ostrich, shyness of, 201. 
Oswell, adventures of, 248, 250. 
Oural, morning in, 19 — sunset in, 

22. ■• 
Owen, Professor, on sea-serpent, 322. 
Owls, voices of, 227, 231. 
Oxen, wild, 201. 

Plesiosaur, characters of, 357— re- 
vived, 358. 
Pool in America, 213. 
Polypes, coral, 90. 


Prairie wolves, 237. 

Ratan, size of, 129. 
Reindeer, 60. 
Rhea, 201. 

Rhinoceros, rage of, 250 
Rotifera, 165-170. 

Park, M., moss of, 192. 

Salpiria, 165 — egg of, 167. 

Sculpture of Rotifera, 169. 

Sea, deep, 64, 290, 295— dust at, 72 
insects at, 84 — streaks at, 99 
clearness of, 295. 

Sea-weeds, long, 128. 

Serpent, the great sea, 300 — in 
Norway, 300 — in N. America, 
306 — seen by five officers, 311 

of the Bcedalus, 314, 317, 332, 
343— seen by Mr Stirling, 318 
identified with Plesiosaurus, 320, 

331, 357-368— seal, 325, 347-353 

■ribbon-fish, 338, 354 — sea-weed, 
339, 342— whale, 353— shai k, 363 
eel, 354 — snakes, 354 — seen by 
Davidson, 334— Steele, 336— Her 
riman, 339 — Harrington, 341 
Smith, 342 — characters of, 345. 
Serpents, great, 122 — venom of, 2.4 

marine, 354. 
Sequoia J 141. 

Shark, capture of, 218 — countf^nan « 
of, 221— instinct of, 222— voj-.v 
city of, 261. 
Sheep, wild, 54. 
Shrew, water, 215. 




Shrimp, brine, 73. 

Siberia, scene in, 43. 

Silver-thaw, 3. 

Snake-bird, 214. 

Snow, beauty of, 2 — life in, 66. 

Snow fjeld, 51, 

Snow-storm, 2. 

Sounds of night, 28. 

Spring, 4 — in Canada, 7. 

Sprites, 225. 

Stag, Siberian, 43. 

StentoTj 161, 

Storks, 181. 

Summer, Indian, 11. 

Sunset in the Oural, 22 — in the Al- 
taian, 23. 

Tameness of animals, 195. 

Termites, 106. 
Thackwray, death of, 249. 
Timber, destroyers of, 105, 109. 
Tree-frogs, voices of, 28, 29. 
Trees, enormous, 135 — mammoth, 

Tropical scenery, 179. 
Tsetse, 110. 

Unearthltness, 225. 

Unicom, traditions of, 285 — Recent 
reports of, 58C. 

Urania^ 177. 
Urus, Scottish, 201. 

Venezuela, morning in, 18 

Volcano, life in, 71. 
Victoria regia, 190, 



Water-insects, 15. 
Water-lily, royal, 190. 
Water-shrew, 215. 
Whale-fishing, perils of, 259. 
Whale of Havre, 305 — Sowerby's, 



Rhinoceros, 366 — Gosse's, 

Whale, sperm, 48, 116. . 
Whales, size of, 115 — by night, 223. 
Whetsaw, voice of, 226. 
White-ants, 106. 

Winter, charms of, 1 — Noon in, 20. 
Wolves, prairie, 237 — European, 241 
voracity of, 242 — night-attack 
of, 243. 

Yew, large, 137. 

Zamang, 136 
Zimb, 110. 

? fc 

♦ ' * 








in their Catalogue of Publications, viz, : 

Bayne'b Works 

Hugh Miller's W 
"Walker's Works. Miall'i 


Bungener'a Wo 

Annnal of Scientific Discovery. Kniglit's Knowledge is Power. 

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The romance of 
natural history.